Bill would allow tax on mail-order tobacco
Oklahoma could capture taxes on mail-order cigarettes if a bill approved by the House Revenue and Taxation Committee becomes law.
House Bill 1814, by Rep. Danny Hilliard, D-Sulphur, would make the state the "point of sale" for all tobacco products delivered through the mail or parcel post, making what had been tax-free smoking items subject to the levy.
Hilliard said his measure would close a loophole discovered by the general populace: Oklahoma does not charge sales taxes on catalog sales if the selling entity does not have a physical presence in the state.
The bill has the backing of the traditional tobacco lobby, Hilliard said.
The committee also kept alive a proposed hike in gasoline and diesel taxes.
Rep. Larry Ferguson, R- Cleveland, proposed the tax hike to raise money for the state's ailing highways and bridges.
The bill would call a statewide election for the hike and, if voters approved it, would increase gasoline taxes up to 5 cents a gallon and diesel taxes up to 7 cents a gallon during a period between the time the election is approved and 2031.
Most of the money would go to the highway maintenance fund.
"We don't want to put anyone out of business, and we don't want to force anyone across the state line to get their gas or diesel," Ferguson said, "so it is something we have to be careful on.
"And if gas prices keep going like they are, then I don't think there's a chance the people would vote to approve this."
Ferguson said many Oklahoma bridges don't meet safety standards, and the state is strapped for maintenance money.
"If people don't want better highways, they can vote against this. But I think people ought to pay for what they use," Ferguson said.
The House Revenue and Taxation Committee also:
Approved a bill that would restore a sales-tax exemption on class rings that was removed by lawmakers a year ago. HB 1002 is authored by Speaker of the House Larry Adair, D-Stilwell.
Killed a proposed tax on soft drinks put forward by Rep. Jerry Ellis, D-Valiant. The bill did not get a second after a soft- drink executive said his industry did not favor the levy.
Approved a bill that would provide a capital gains tax break to stock market investors. HB 1401, by Rep. Hopper Smith, R-Tulsa, likely would not have a fiscal impact for several years because of the depressed value of the stock market, he said.
Kept alive a shell bill that would allow Oklahoma to participate in a simplified tax system to capture revenue from Internet sales.