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Where there’s smoke

The progressive case for increasing the cigarette tax

Out of all the revenue options that Oklahoma has to fix a deep budget hole, the one getting the most attention from legislative leaders is increasing the cigarette tax. Last year’s attempt to increase the cigarette tax received a majority of votes in the House, but it fell short of the three-fourths supermajority required by State Question 640 for any tax increase, with Democrats making up the biggest block of no votes.

The Republican leadership is trying again this year for a $1.50 per package increase in the cigarette tax with HB 1841, but to get it done they will need some votes from House Democrats. The biggest objection from Democrats is that a cigarette tax increase is regressive — taxing a larger share of income from the poorest Oklahomans — and would result in a troubling tax shift after recent income tax and gross production tax cuts that predominately benefited wealthy individuals and large corporations.

Gene Perry is Policy Director of Oklahoma Policy Institute. For the rest of this article and more, okpolicy.org.