The conference committee on the cigarette tax bill went back to work this morning, and settled on a compromise acceptable to both the House and Senate, which was then approved on a series of 5-1 votes. Rep. Jim Clark, R-Hayden Lake, cast the only dissenting votes. He said the wording on allowing the second year of revenue from the tax to go to “repair, remodel and restoration of the state capitol building and state facilities pertaining to the capitol restoration” was too broad for him. “It’s too wide-open,” he said. “I think the reason we were here on the tobacco tax increase was to do something about water – it wasn’t to do something about the capitol building.”
Under the compromise, the current tax rate of 57 cents a pack would become permanent, and the money would go to water projects for the first year, then to the capitol project until it’s fully funded. After that, the money would go back into an economic recovery reserve fund. Also, cigarette wholesalers would get a boost in their payments for affixing tax stamps to cigarette packs of about $300,000 a year, at state expense. The Legislature would re-examine that issue next year.
If the compromise is accepted by both houses – which can’t modify it, they can only vote up or down – then the Senate will re-amend the bill, and each house would have to give it a final vote.