The conference committee has agreed unanimously to split the difference, and give tobacco wholesalers a roughly $300,000-a-year windfall at state expense, rather than the $800,000 to $1 million they wanted or the $500,000 or so the Senate agreed to give them.
“I think that they want to balance their budgets on the backs of small businesses in the state of Idaho, that’s what I think,” snapped Jerry Deckard, lobbyist for the wholesalers, after the vote. He and partner Roger Seiber had presented sketchy figures to the panel showing that three wholesalers estimate their costs to affix stamps on cigarette packs at anywhere from 2.8 to 3.4 cents per pack, while the current law just gives them about 1.48 cents a pack. But he didn’t mention that the number of packs sold in Idaho is dropping steadily – which presumably increases their take from the state per pack.
The conference committee voted to set the wholesalers’ cut at 3.3 percent, rather than the current 2.61 percent or the Senate’s proposed 4 percent. Asked if he wasn’t happy with the boost, Deckard said, “Not very happy – not after I demonstrated what the actual costs are.”
The conference committee is still ironing out differences on how to distribute the cigarette tax proceeds, and will go back to work momentarily after a break to meet with legislative leaders.