Oklahoma court overturns $1.50 per pack cigarette fee - KTEN.com - No One Gets You Closer

Oklahoma court overturns $1.50 per pack cigarette fee

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- The Oklahoma Supreme Court has overturned a $1.50 per pack fee on cigarettes.

The court on Thursday rejected the state's claim that the fee is to protect the public welfare by discouraging smoking. The court agreed the fee violates a state constitutional ban on passing revenue-raising measures in the final five days of a legislative session and without a 75 percent majority vote.

A spokesman for Gov. Mary Fallin did not immediately return a phone call for comment. The State Department of health said it was "disappointed" by the court ruling.

“If we are going to create a healthier place for our children to live, it has to start with preventing smoking.” said state health commissioner Dr. Terry Cline in a written statement. “Smoking is the leading preventable cause of death and disability in Oklahoma and raising the price of cigarettes to prevent our kids from taking up this deadly habit is the right thing to do.”     

The lawsuit was filed by tobacco companies and others after the bill passed on the final day of the session as lawmakers sought to close an $878 million budget hole.

The fee was expected to generate about $258 million.

The Oklahoma Public Employees Association on Thursday asked Gov. Fallin to call a special session to "find fair and permanent revenue solutions and restore state services."

“We have to raise revenue the right way now and not further damage core services provided by state agencies," OPEA executive director Sterling Zearley said in a statement. "We will not stand for more cuts to services because of this ruling."

Other pending lawsuits challenge removing a 1.25 percent tax exemption on auto sales and a fee on electric and compressed natural gas vehicles.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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