The State Senate passed a bill today that adds $1.50 to a pack of cigarettes. But opponents say it’s unconstitutional and will leave the state nearly $200 million in the red.
The bill provides a large chunk of the money in the proposed $6.8 billion spending plan. Opponents fear, because it was pitched after revenue raising bills are required to be filed, it will be deemed unconstitutional.
For Senator Greg Treat (R) Majority Floor Leader, it’s personal “My absolute hero died at age 60.”Treat told his colleagues, fighting back tears, “From the evils of cigarettes.”
Treat remembered his grandfather’s words before he died. “I want you to always remember two things. That you’re my best pal and don’t ever touch a cigarette.” Treat recalled.
Backers say that’s the real reason behind the bill to increase the tax on cigarettes by a dollar fifty a pack; to reduce the number of people smoking.
Senator Ervin Yen (R) Nichols Hills, is also a doctor. “I see patients chests cracked open to take out cancer. I see patients chests cracked open so that their heart can undergo coronary artery bypass grafting.”
But the bill also raises money, about 184-million dollars. “The constitution is very clear,” said Senator John Sparks (D) Norman, “It says the legislature may not raise revenue in the last five days.”
Senator Kay Floyd (D) Oklahoma City added, “We need to own that and recognize if this does not work out the way we want to, if this is found to be overturned, then it is because we made the decision to move forward today.”