Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Garvin County legislators ask for AG opinion on sales taxes for rural ambulance services

Roe, Garvin Push for AG Opinion on Sales Taxes for Rural Ambulance Services

OKLAHOMA CITY – Rep. Cynthia Roe, R-Lindsay, and Sen. Jessica Garvin, R-Duncan, have requested an opinion from Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond regarding the distribution of county sales tax revenue to support private businesses providing a public service.

In April 2021, Garvin County voters approved Proposition No. 2, which would set aside a portion of sales tax toward Emergency Management Services (EMS) in certain rural areas that did not previously maintain emergency services.

Roe said that questions have arisen regarding the use of sales tax revenue to contract with private, for-profit entities providing ambulance services and, as a result, these set-aside tax dollars remain untouched.

"I've heard from many of my constituents that they didn't realize private ambulance services wouldn't be allowed to tap into county sales tax funds," Roe said. "After looking into this, we realized that communities across the state are in a similar bind. The Garvin County sales tax increase was approved to support emergency services, but these businesses are prevented from receiving this funding to support them and expand their ambulance services. This leaves those tax dollars untouched when voters said there was a dire need in rural Oklahoma for these services."

“Rural Oklahomans are already struggling to get access to vital health care services. Representative Roe and I are committed to working with other local and state officials, along with our state agencies, to find a common-sense solution that will benefit every county and every Oklahoman,” Garvin said. “Residents of this state should not have to worry about losing life-saving services over a technicality, and I’m certain we can come up with a solution soon.”

Roe and Garvin are working with the district attorneys within their districts, as well as from across the state, and have reached out to the Attorney General's office to receive an opinion.

A similar issue arose in 2004 when some Oklahoma towns assessed a fee onto water bills with the intention of setting aside that fee for EMS, including privately-owned ambulance services. The official opinion from then-Attorney General Drew Edmondson concluded that these fees could be provided to privately-owned ambulance services because they provided a public service.


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