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DeathscytheX

Cigarette Tax Dies in Senate.

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http://fredericksburg.com/News/FLS/2009/022009/02042009/443686?rss=local

--A bill to double the tax on cigarettes failed in a Senate committee yesterday, leaving budget-writers scrambling to make up another $147 million hole in their state budget.

The Senate Finance Committee voted 8-8 on the bill, and under the rules, a tie vote means a bill fails to pass. All the Republicans and one Democrat--Sen. Roscoe Reynolds--voted against the bill, while all the Democrats except Reynolds voted for it.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Janet Howell, D-Fairfax, would have increased the tax on cigarettes from 30 cents a pack to 60 cents a pack.

It was part of a proposal from Gov. Tim Kaine, who wanted to raise the cigarette tax to help mitigate budget cuts to Medicaid.

Kaine had said that expenditures for smoking-related illnesses cost Medicaid far more than cigarette taxes brought in, and that raising the tax would help limit cuts to Medicaid in a year when nearly every state service and program is being cut to help cover a $3 billion budget shortfall.

Lawmakers in both houses are due to present their own versions of the state budget this Sunday. The House had already rejected Kaine's cigarette tax proposal. But senators have only a few days to rewrite the health care portion of the budget without the tax money.

"We just made a horrible situation worse," said Sen. Edd Houck, D-Spotsylvania, after the vote.

Houck is one of the senators who are writing that portion of the budget.

"This creates a terrible hole in funding for the health safety net. This is a major setback," he added. "It's tragic that the tobacco interests superseded the interests of health."

In the next few days Houck and other budget writers will have to find other cuts to make up the roughly $150 million the cigarette tax increase would have brought.

"We're going to have to get the sharp knife out and start cutting more, which is really difficult," Houck said. "It's going to be very difficult to find that amount of money anywhere else in the budget."

Houck said it was clear to him that those senators who voted against the bill are "beholden to the tobacco industry." Several tobacco lobbyists spoke against the bill.

The Republicans who voted against the bill gave different reasons during debate before the vote.

Several of them objected to a recently-added provision in Howell's bill that directed some of the cigarette tax money toward mental health services and facilities. She said she wasn't sure how they would keep those services without the tobacco tax money--a linkage that Republicans disliked.

"I'd like to be able to support mental health without having to support a tobacco tax," said Sen. Ken Stolle, R-Virginia Beach. "It really makes me feel uncomfortable to have people come up and testify in front of the committee on mental health issues to support a cigarette tax because we cleverly tie mental health services into the cigarette tax package. Let's just vote it up or down on the merits of the cig tax."

Sen. Tommy Norment, R-Williamsburg, said the bill had "taken a metamorphosis originally the public advocacy on the tobacco tax was to backfill some Medicare reimbursements."

Sen. John Watkins, R-Chesterfield, also took issue with the idea of taxing one cause of poor health without taxing others

"There's probably some legitimacy with that correlation, but it's not limited to this one product line by any means. Have we added anything recently to alcohol, to beer and wine, to distilled spirits?" Watkins asked. "Because certainly there's a corollary affect that goes on there in terms of health care. How about fast food? Maybe we ought to have a tax on fast food so that could be tied to health care."

Sen. Dick Saslaw, D-Fairfax, who voted for the bill, countered that he's not affected by someone else's Big Mac the way he is by secondhand smoke.

Supporters of the bill said the money is critical to help keep funding health care in the current recession. Howell and Houck both said health care jobs could be lost if Medicaid must endure further cuts.

"If we do not pass this bill we will put at imminent risk about 11,000 health care jobs," Howell said. "Disbanding our health care system should not be an option."

Before the committee voted, Houck characterized the tax bill as a vote for jobs.

"This vote is about jobs, jobs in the health care industry. And we simply cannot protect the jobs without this funding," Houck said. "And the jobs equal services to the clients. You don't get health care without health care workers."


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:picknose:Maybe it'll get rewritten... Causing Cigarette tax to be $1+...


"Cool. I always knew Atheists would someday save The World."

- Fantomex

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tax on a pk of butts in ny state is already over 2$, a name brand will cost ya 6-8$ a pack

How self defeating is it that you need ppl to continue to smoke (unhealthy) to pay for health care.... what???


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tax on a pk of butts in ny state is already over 2$, a name brand will cost ya 6-8$ a pack

How self defeating is it that you need ppl to continue to smoke (unhealthy) to pay for health care.... what???

kinda the same here, 4-5£ a pack,

there only £1 a pack in duty free areas,

crazy, government is as bad as crack dealers, taxing a substastance that is highly addictive, because people will pay


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its rare I buy cigs by the pk in this fuckin state. I go to the Onondaga Reservation and buy by the carton, no tax.


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                                               Look at the flowers

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Arizona its like 4-5 bucks a pack plus Mexico is right there and that's insanely cheep... too bad Drum isn't in AZ... *crys*

I'm gonna have to quite soon if cigs keep getting more expensive...


LOL

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