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Eye On Boise

Mon., March 12, 2012, 8:53 a.m.

Committee debate: ‘If you don’t want folks to smoke, ban the product’

Rep. John Rusche, D-Lewistion, said, "I think this is good public policy. I think it directly will affect the health of Idahoans," so he moved to introduce the cigarette tax increase bill.

Rep. Ken Roberts, R-Donnelly, said he made a commitment last summer to print the bill, and he'll hold to that. Roberts said to him, it's not a question of taxes, it's a question of who's going to pay the bill for entitlement programs. "Right now the general taxpayer of the state of Idaho is paying the bill for a segment of society that is not as concerned about their health," he said. "That's what this discussion is about to me. ... It's about who pays the bill."

Rep. Lenore Barrett, R-Challis, said, "Tobacco is a legal product and the industry should be treated as all other legitimate industries. ... This is the most blatant case of social engineering I have ever seen. It is not the proper role of government to social engineer through tax policy. ... If you don't want folks to smoke, ban the product, make it illegal, send smokers to jail and pay for their rehab."

Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens, said, "I'm pretty convinced that this legislation will hurt businesses in my district. That here in a year when we're $103 million up from what we're expected to be, I just don't see why the state's going to continue to be looking for more revenue. Just because we can tax this, target tobacco to tax, doesn't mean that we should."

Rep. Cliff Bayer, R-Boise, said he can't support the "over 200 percent tax increase," and made a substitute motion to return the bill to sponsor, refusing to introduce it or hold a full hearing.

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Eye On Boise

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