Cigarette tax increase is back in the conversation | Cigarettes Blog

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Cigarette tax increase is back in the conversation

Just like a game of Whac-A-Mole, sin tax proposals keep popping up.
State voters repealed the 6.25 percent sales tax on alcohol in a November ballot question. Now, health care advocates are pushing for a 50 percent hike in the excise tax on cigarettes.
An anti-smoking coalition called Tobacco Free Massachusetts has made increasing the excise tax on cigarettes by $1.25 per pack one of its top legislative priorities this year, and 28 lawmakers have signed on.
Currently, the state collects $2.51 in excise tax on every pack of cigarettes sold here. The proposed increase would bring the tax to $3.76 per pack.
During the last two-year legislative session, Gov. Deval Patrick approved a $1.51 hike in the excise tax on cigarettes, bringing it to $2.51.
Tobacco Free Massachusetts says another big boost in the tax would generate $90 million in new revenues for the state.
The group held a briefing for lawmakers last week at the State House, but since the House and Senate were not in session, only staffers attended.
The event included speakers from public health organizations from around the state, and included remarks from Public Health Commissioner John Auerbach.
Auerbach, chairman of the state’s policy-setting Public Health Council, told The Patriot Ledger that while the council hasn’t developed its own legislative agenda yet, he would be willing to look at the proposal.
He also acknowledged that any new or higher taxes would be a hard sell this year.
op1209smoke1.JPG “I think it’s a tough environment to consider taxation,” he said. “We’ve clearly heard that from legislators. But we’ll look over all the proposals.”
Gov. Deval Patrick has repeatedly said that his budget plan due Wednesday will not include new taxes. Asked if he would be open to the higher cigarette tax, Patrick spokeswoman Heather Johnson said, “The governor has been clear that he will not propose any new taxes this year.”
Asked if that applies to the second half of the two-year legislative session, Johnson said, “My prior comment stands.”
But the anti-tobacco coalition does have allies in the Legislature; 28 lawmakers have signed on to the bill as co-sponsors. None are from the South Shore.
The bill is being filed by Rep. Jonathan Hecht, D-Watertown.
A spokesman for Senate President Therese Murray said she hadn’t heard about the bill yet.
The Patrick administration failed in its attempt last session to impose the state’s 6.25 percent sales tax on candy, snacks, soda and other items considered unhealthy.

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