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Inaction on budget costly to state

Each passing day without a deal to bridge the state's $215 million budget shortfall means less potential revenue will be available if lawmakers pass one or multiple tax increases.

Hundreds of thousands daily

An Oklahoma Watch analysis of state projections shows that each day that lawmakers don't pass the $1.50-per-pack cigarette tax would cost the state between $680,305 and $712,265 in potential new revenue, depending on what calculations the state uses.

Had lawmakers passed the tax increase during the first week of the special session, which was the House Republicans' plan at the time, it would have generated $128.9 million for the current fiscal year (it ends June 30), according to Tax Commission numbers.

The estimated tax collections on the new cigarette rate would have taken effect Jan. 1 since the state Constitution blocks revenue-raising bills from taking effect for 90 days after they are signed into law.

But the state's inaction, so far, on the proposal means it no longer could take effect by that date even if lawmakers were to pass a bill this week.

Budget negotiators are now looking at a potential cigarette tax increase that could take effect by Feb. 1, according to projections from the governor's office. That would bring in $102 million ñ a difference of $26 million from the original estimate.

And its possible that amount  as well as potential revenue for other proposed tax increases  could be lowered even more unless there is a breakthrough on the stalled budget negotiations. This task could be further complicated by a long-scheduled closure of the Capitol (for electrical work) that will occur from Friday through Oct. 23.

The Lawton Constitution

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