Alva Review-Courier -

Budget talks continue

 


Last week marked the deadline for all Senate bills to be heard on the House floor. Any remaining Senate bills not heard are not eligible again until next session.

I’m proud to say we passed Senate Bill 765 last week, which makes it illegal for individuals under the age of 18 to use a tanning bed. Several years ago, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer gave indoor tanning beds its highest carcinogen ranking. The American Academy of Dermatology’s statistics show nearly one-third of indoor tanners start the practice before they turn 18. I appreciated the support I received from many of our young constituents on this issue. 

We’ll start hearing the bulk of our revenue bills in the next couple of weeks, and there’s been a lot of talk about one tax increase versus another. I wanted to let you know where I come down on some of the more prominent proposals.

I plan to support the proposal raising the cigarette tax by $1.50 per pack. Increasing this tax could generate anywhere between $180 million and $260 million, which would go a long way in helping fill the projected $878 million hole in next year. More importantly though, this tax could discourage people from starting the habit, and it will hopefully encourage current smokers to quit. Roughly 7,500 Oklahomans die each year from tobacco use, and the increased revenue will be used to help our state's healthcare needs.

We are seriously considering increasing the motor fuel tax. This particular tax hasn’t been raised in nearly 30 years, and repairing state infrastructure now is much more expensive than it was in the 1980s. There’s no question though: this money needs to be tied to the state’s Rebuilding Oklahoma Access and Driver Safety (ROADS) Fund so we can properly fund the Department of Transportation.

One of the bigger proposals you might have been receiving robo-calls about is the gross production tax for horizontal wells. These are currently taxed at 2 percent for the first 36 months. After the first three years, the rate increases to 7 percent. Currently horizontal wells are limited to one mile radius from the drilling location. There is a push to allow horizontal drilling to range out to a 2 mile radius. This would decrease the cost of drilling in that one drilling location could reach what currently takes at least six locations. There are a few plans out there, including one by the state auditor, to raise the tax to a flat, 5 percent rate. I don't know if that is a correct amount, but it is just another item that is being considered into reaching a budget.

We continue to eliminate unnecessary government spending, trying to ensure we’re fiscally responsible. Many agencies have seen cuts upwards of 35 percent over the past decade, and the Legislature will strive to fully fund our core state services: education, human services, transportation, public safety and healthcare. Thank you, and may God bless our State.

Carl Newton represents House District 58. He can be reached at [email protected] or by calling 405-557-7339.

 

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