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Gas tax hike eyed amid Oklahoma budget crunch

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP)  Oklahoma's tax on gasoline and diesel, untouched since 1987 and among the lowest in the nation, is becoming a tempting target for state lawmakers desperate for revenue amid a third straight year of budget declines.

Several Republican legislators said last week they expect proposals will be unveiled once the session begins in February to increase the state's gasoline and diesel taxes of 17 cents and 14 cents, respectively.

"I would not be surprised to see a fuel tax, tobacco tax or a tax on services being filed just so there is a vehicle out there, a placeholder for that discussion," said new House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka. "But actually getting that accomplished is a totally separate issue."

Oklahoma ranks 49th among the 50 states for its tax on diesel and 48th for its tax on gasoline, according to a November report from the American Petroleum Institute.

During last year's session, as lawmakers looked to close a $1.3 billion hole in the budget, Rep. Earl Sears introduced a bill to increase the tax by 3 cents per gallon. The measure would have generated about $41 million annually, according to a fiscal analysis of the bill by House researchers, but it failed on a 14-9 vote against it.

"It was an election year," said Sears, R-Bartlesville. "We had members who were very reluctant to raise taxes."

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