Oklahoma Senators today gave final approval to Governor Henry’s Health Initiative sending a proposed tobacco tax increase to the vote of the people in November.
By a 39-8 vote, Senators approved House Bill 2660. It calls for a net 55-cent increase in the per pack tax on tobacco to fund a wide range of health programs, including an increase in the rates paid to Medicaid providers, health insurance premium assistance for approximately 100,000 uninsured Oklahomans, creation of a cancer research and treatment center and additional funding for the statewide trauma care network.
“Thanks to the leadership of our young governor and the courage of a majority of the members of the Legislature, this and future generations of Oklahomans will have a healthier future. Our state is one of the sickest in the nation, but that’s about to change. This vote – the most important vote in the Legislature since the passage of House Bill 1017 in 1990 – is the first step on the path to a healthier Oklahoma,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Cal Hobson.
Hobson also lauded the bi-partisan vote in favor of the issue.
“Both Democrats and Republicans made the health of our state a priority with their vote today. Neither side put party politics before the health of Oklahomans,” Hobson said.
Senator Ben Robinson, D-Muskogee, presented the bill on the Senate floor.
“With this vote today, Senators have saved lives. The people of Oklahoma will support this in November and as a result thousand of children in our state won’t become smokers and won’t die premature deaths related to smoking,” Robinson said.
The Oklahoma House of Representatives approved HB 2660 Thursday by a 66-33 vote.