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Eye On Boise

Wed., March 30, 2005, 5:04 p.m.

Senators seek payoff to tobacco sellers

Incredibly, when the amendments to the cigarette tax bill came out in the Senate today, they included raising the percentage payout to tobacco wholesalers. A lobbyist for the wholesalers, Jerry Deckard, had made a pitch unsuccessfully to raise their take from 2.61 percent of the tax to 5 percent. That got rejected in the House, and generated little enthusiasm at a committee hearing this morning – but senators at the last minute decided to give them 4 percent.

Rep. Jim Clark, R-Hayden Lake, estimated that upping the figure to 5 percent would have given the wholesalers a $1 million-a-year windfall, at state expense. Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, co-sponsor of the Senate amendments, said he thought that figure really was closer to just $800,000.

Either way, that’s a cool half-million bucks that senators decided the tobacco wholesalers should pick up, in exchange for stamping cigarettes. They’ll do the same amount of stamping or less – the amount of cigarettes sold in Idaho is dropping.

The other amendments make the current tax rate of 57 cents a pack permanent, direct the gains from the tax in the second year and thereafter to renovating the state Capitol, and raise amounts going to a tumor registry and anti-cancer program back to match current allotments, which the bill earlier had dropped slightly.

Senators just passed the amended bill on a 29-6 vote.

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Eye On Boise

Short takes and breaking news from the Idaho Legislature and the state capital.