Budget Gap Spotlights Oklahoma's Onerous Three-Fourths Supermajority Requirement

California legislators have it easy compared to their counterparts in Oklahoma and Arkansas who seek to increase revenue through tax increases. A bill to hike gasoline and cigarette taxes and revise alcohol taxes faces a high hurdle.
November 1, 2017, 11am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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Gov. Mary Fallin and the leader of the House and Senate, all Republicans, agree on three measures to hike revenues to close a $215 million budget gap, reports Bill Miston for KFOR-TV on Oct. 23, to fund transportation projects, teacher and public employee pay raises and restore the Earned Income Tax credit:

  • Place a $1.50 tax on a package of cigarettes
  • Provide for a 6-cent fuel tax increase
  • Revise taxes on alcoholic beverages

Oklahoma and Arkansas have the most rigorous requirement to pass revenue-increasing measures – they require a three-fourths supermajority vote, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Twelve other states also have a supermajority threshold, though somewhat less onerous at either three-fifths or two-thirds. California has the latter.

In August, the Oklahoma Supreme Court confirmed the formidable requirement after the legislature passed a $1.50 cigarette fee with only a majority vote, creating the current $215 million budget gap. The ruling also convinced Failin to hold a special legislative session which decided on the aforementioned revenue increases.

In the House, "Republicans currently have a 72-28 majority but would require at least four Democrat [sic] votes to raise taxes," adds Miston. The 48-member Senate has 39 Republicans; no Dems needed to pass tax increases.

On Oct. 24, Gov. Fallin received more bad news from the Oklahoma Supreme Court which ruled in favor of the Sierra Club by striking down "the $100 fee for the registration of an electric vehicle (EV) as well as $30 for a hybrid," reports Nadia Judith Enchassi for KFOR.

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In February, Planetizen  reported on what turned out to be an unsuccessful bill to hike the 17-cents per gallon gas tax, the nation's third lowest, according to the January 27, 2017 Tax Foundation map, by 3-cents per gallon. The legislature had even added a sweetener for tax opponents: the tax hike would only take effect when fuel prices were less than $3.00 per gallon. 

Hat tip to AASHTO Daily Transportation Update.

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