This week we voted on the passage of the cigarette tax and I heard from many constituents, especially those in health care, who urged me to support the increase of cigarette taxes.
The cigarette tax alone would have funded provider care and hospitals. No health care cuts would have been necessary with the passage of this tax. The elderly would have received care, nursing homes could stay open, and advantage programs would have all been funded with this increase. There would be no need to “rebalance” Medicaid.
Yesterday, late in the evening, Democrat legislators in the House of Representatives locked up their votes and voted against the funding of hospitals, doctors, elderly care, nursing homes, home health and mental health.
The scuttlebutt in the Capitol is that the Democrats said they would not allow the cigarette tax to pass if Medicaid expansion did not become an option, so on May 18 they rolled the dice – and the cigarette tax did not pass.
Make no mistake. The Democrats’ failure to pass this tax increase took $185 million out of the budget and pushed the possibility of special session that much closer. Deeper cuts in other areas will be necessary.
It is clear that a united strategy is being followed by Democrats on both sides of the rotunda. The Senate has passed legislation that amounts to recapturing about $450 million of financial reform to fill the $1.3 B budget shortfall this year, but the Democrats are voting as a bloc against any overhaul of tax credits. Minority leaders in both the House and Senate are careful to get in front of the cameras and talk about tax credits … but they cast a “no” vote every time a tax bill comes up.
Do today’s party politics so easily outweigh the health care concerns of the elderly and ailing? It is time for Democrats to stop preening for the press.
We were elected to try to find government waste and enact real reform, and even though it’s against my personal principle to vote for a tax increase, I supported this cigarette tax to make sure that the health care facilities could stay open and to keep doctors and hospitals in rural Oklahoma.
Senator Mark Allen