By Rep. Mike Sanders
The House on Wednesday voted on House Bill 1054X that would have increased taxes on cigarettes, cigars and smokeless tobacco; gasoline and diesel; 3.2 beer consumed on premise; and the gross production tax on new oil wells.
The $79.1 million from the tobacco tax would have gone to the three health care agencies affected when the state Supreme Court struck down the Smoking Cessation Act of 2017. This would help keep services for our most vulnerable in place as well as our rural hospitals and nursing homes open.
The $40.5 million from the motor fuels tax would have been designated for roads and bridges beginning in July.
The $10.4 million from beer, and $2.1 million from gross production tax would have gone towards a teacher and state employee pay raises.
Those who don’t use tobacco or drink will not pay those taxes.
The bill failed to get the 76 votes required.
The bill was held over so it could be brought back to the House floor for another vote. I’m not sure yet whether that will happen.
In the meantime, the House already has passed – appropriations of state carryover cash, as well as a measure that increases the gross production tax on legacy wells (those drilled before July 2015) from 4 percent to 7 percent.
The measures await approval by the state senate and the signature of the governor.
I’m disappointed HB1054X failed.
For those who said they wouldn’t vote on this bill before we audit our agencies, I would say, I agree, we must audit our agencies for waste and fraud. But, those audits will not start in time to save our core health care services, to fix our roads and bridges, and to give our teachers and state employees a much needed raise.
People in this state are looking for leadership and a solution for our budget problems now. I have looked for compromise among my fellow Republicans and with my Democrat colleagues. I have taken a reasonable and bipartisan approach to this entire process and will continue to do so. I have listened to the people of my district, and I will always vote with those who hired me to do this job.