A pair of Republican state senators from the Tulsa area called on Gov. Brad Henry Tuesday to add tobacco tax parity legislation to the agenda for the Legislature’s special session.
News reports last weekend quoted State Treasurer Scott Meacham – the architect of Henry’s poorly-designed tobacco tax program – as saying the governor is “surveying” members of the legislature to determine whether there is support for parity legislation.
“It is not time for polling legislators, it is time for action. The governor’s tobacco tax program has put convenience stores in the Tulsa area and around our state’s borders at a terrible price disadvantage with tribal competitors. Unless the Legislature addresses Gov. Henry’s poorly designed tobacco tax program, we’re going to see private convenience stores going out of business resulting in job losses in these areas. It is imperative that we bring parity to tobacco tax collections in the state of Oklahoma,” stated Sen. Randy Brogdon, R-Owasso.
Henry’s tobacco tax program has resulted in a major shift of tobacco purchases from Oklahoma convenience stores to Indian smoke shops. The tribal smoke shops can sell cigarettes more cheaply because of loopholes for the tribes that Henry and Meacham placed in their tobacco tax plan. Since the state receives less tax revenue from tribal sales of cigarettes, tobacco tax revenues have been significantly less than Henry and Meacham promised.
“It is becoming more and more likely that the new tobacco tax revenues promised by Gov. Henry and Treasurer Meacham won’t come anywhere near their rosy estimates. Such a huge shortfall means the governor would likely have to scale back or eliminate many of the new health care programs he promised to voters last fall,” stated Sen. Brian Crain, R-Tulsa.