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On Monday, public health groups had their shot at convincing lawmakers to raise the cigarette tax. And they were doomed from the start. The House Revenue and Taxation Committee voted 11-5 to kill the proposal before it was even formally printed. This committee — which, by legislative custom, gets the first look at any tax increases — once again lived up to its well-earned tax-hawk reputation. So much for this idea. For 2012, and probably for the forseeable future. Like the “Add the Words” legislation, which sought to expand Idaho anti-discrimination laws to cover sexual orientation and gender identity, the cigarette tax increase had some grassroots support behind it. Earlier in the session, supporters delivered more than 8,000 postcards to lawmakers, from Idahoans urging a cigarette tax increase/Idaho Statesman. More here.
Question: Do you support the decision by the House Revenue & Taxation Committee not to increase state taxes on cigarettes?
Update: The House Rev & Tax Committee has voted 11-5 against introducing or allowing a full hearing on the bill to increase Idaho's cigarette tax.
Rep. Dick Harwood, R-St. Maries, said, “The smokers, I want to thank them for this building we're in,” noting that Idaho tapped cigarette tax proceeds to pay for the bonds to renovate the state Capitol. “It's kind of ironic that they can't smoke in it,” he said. “My mother smoked for 82 years,” and remained in good health, Harwood said. “Just because you smoke doesn't mean that you're gonna be ill.” Rep. Cliff Bayer, R-Boise, questioned whether the state would next move to taxing people who eat unhealthy food and risk heart disease/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here. And: How they voted here.
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Question: Do you ever wonder what minimal level of IQ is necessary to be an Idaho legislator?
A coalition of 25 organizations, from the American Lung Association in Idaho to the Idaho Association of Counties, is backing a $1.25 per pack increase in Idaho's cigarette tax, Heidi Low, coalition spokeswoman, told the Legislature's Health Care Task Force today. "We don't yet have legislation, we're still hammering out a couple of the details," Low told lawmakers. Among those: Backers are working to make sure the bill sends the proceeds from the tax hike not to the state's general fund, but specifically to smoking-related health costs and smoking cessation efforts, she said.
Idaho's current cigarette tax of 57 cents a pack, now lower than just eight other states, would rise to $1.82 under the proposal; the national average is $1.46. Washington's is currently $3.025; Oregon's is $1.18; Nevada's is 80 cents; Utah's is $1.70; Wyoming's is 60 cents; and Montana's is $1.70. Sen. Joyce Broadsword, R-Sagle, told Low, "This puts my small business owners that are close to the border with Montana at a disadvantage, and I'm going to be hearing from them if this is the bill that goes forward."
Low said "conservative" estimates show the increase would bring in $51.1 million a year and decrease youth smoking by 20 percent.
StateImpact notes that Idaho Rep. Dennis Lake, R-Blackfoot, plans to propose legislation to raise the state tax on cigarettes from $1.25 per pack from 57 cents to $1.82. Similar legislation was considered last year. The key paragraph in the story is this: "Interest groups on both sides of the tobacco tax issue will surely spend a significant amount of money lobbying lawmakers in the direction of their cause. According to a database at the Secretary of State’s website, the American Cancer Society spent $15,516 on lobbying efforts during the 2011 session. Altria Client Services Inc, which is the parent company of tobacco-giant Philip Morris spent $110,467 to lobby lawmakers in 2011." More here.
Question: Would you like to see state cigarette taxes raised $1.25 per pack?
In a year dominated by the budget, it’s hard to see why the Legislature would deny Democrats the chance to at least tout their reasons to support an increase in the cigarette tax. Several minority party members in the Statehouse want to increase the cigarette tax by $1.25 to provide more funding for Medicaid and public schools. Minority Leader John Rusche (pictured) said the tobacco tax hike would raise about $50 million to soften the blow of cuts to important programs. As it stands, health groups report Idaho ranks in 42nd for its tax on tobacco products, so it’s reasonable to give backers of an increase an opportunity to make their case/Idaho Press-Tribune Editorial Board. More here.
Question: Did GOP legislators abuse power by denying a hearing on the Dems' cigarette tax proposal?
Here’s a link to my full story at spokesman.com on how Idahoans overwhelmingly support raising state taxes on cigarettes and alcohol to address the state’s budget deficit, according to a new statewide poll, even as they oppose other tax hikes and spending cuts. The poll, conducted by Moore Information, was released today by a coalition of health groups that launched a push for a big hike in Idaho’s 57-cent-per-pack cigarette tax in the coming year. Backers said a $1.50-per-pack hike would be a “huge win for Idaho’s public health.”
Idaho House Tax Chairman Dennis Lake, R-Blackfoot, said he supports a big hike in the state’s cigarette tax in the coming year, and may co-sponsor the legislation. “I do support it,” he said. “They wanted to bring a bill to raise cigarette taxes last year and I wouldn’t let them, told them no, that last year was all about reducing the base budget, because we had to do that,” Lake told Eye on Boise today. “So when they approached me this year, I said yes, we’d hear the bill.” Lake said he’s not sure about a health coalition’s proposal for a $1.50 per pack increase, however. “I’m not sure that that amount will fly. But I think that we will have a bill that will increase cigarette taxes, yes. Whether it’s a dollar and half or a dollar or some other figure I don’t know.”
Lake said he agrees with a new poll that shows Idahoans strongly backing the move. “I think people do support it,” he said. But he said he’s reluctant to rely on a cigarette tax increase as a “revenue enhancer.” Instead, he said it’s warranted on public health grounds. “I’ve seen the figures on what they think the reduction in teenage smoking would be, and I think that alone makes the project worthwhile,” Lake said.
A new poll conducted by Moore Information shows a startling 71 percent of Idahoans favor increases in state taxes on tobacco and alcohol to address Idaho’s budget deficit, and 73 percent support a $1.50 per pack increase in the cigarette tax to preserve Medicaid funding and fund tobacco-cessation and youth prevention programs. A broad coalition of Idaho health groups, from the American Cancer Society to the Idaho Medical Association to the Idaho Academy of Family Physicians, released the poll today and launched a new push for a big hike in Idaho’s cigarette tax in the coming year.
Dr. Ted Epperly, a family physician from Boise, said smoking is the No. 1 most preventable cause of death in the United States, yet 5,000 Idaho kids try their first cigarette each year and 1,500 Idahoans die from smoking each year. “By raising the state’s tobacco tax, Idaho will reduce smoking … especially among kids,” Epperly said. “The science could not be more clear.”
That’s not all - the groups project that a $1.50 per pack increase in Idaho’s cigarette tax also would bring in an additional $52.3 million to the state’s treasury, even after accounting for the drop in cigarette sales it’d bring about. That money, Epperly said, could help shore up Medicaid, “a program that is in crisis at this time.” Epperly said the state also would see reduced health care costs as the number of smokers drops - an estimated $8 million in savings just in the first five years.
Said Epperly, “This will be a huge win for Idaho’s public health.”
OLYMPIA — Smokers should expect to pay another $1 for a pack of cigarettes soon.
The Senate just passed a tax hike for cigarettes as the Legislature moves towards adjournment. It would raise an estimated $100 million in new tax revenue, an amount that’s being factored into the new taxes Democrats are raising to come with $800 million in new revenue as part of the “balanced solution” to the state’s $2.8 billion budget hole.
The House has already passed higher cigarette taxes.
The Senate vote was 28-17. To see the roll call, go inside the blog.