Lawmakers Discuss Raising Tax On Cigarettes

Monday, May 16th 2016, 7:29 pm

A $1.50 tax on cigarettes passed its first hurdle, but it’s a long way from becoming law. 

The Joint Commission on Appropriations and Budget passed a measure to add the tax to cigarettes to raise about $180 million per year, but the bill probably doesn’t have enough votes to become law.

Under the terms of the bill, money raised from the tax could only be used for healthcare and mental healthcare programs that receive matching money. 

Opponents say the tax unfairly taxes the poor.

“We’re gonna not get the money because a term limited governor tells you all that she might veto it?" said Rep. Richard Morrissette, D-District 92.  "That’s an insult to us a body.”

Rep. Doug Cox, R-District, 5 said this is not a mandatory tax because people choose to smoke. 

"Let me say that this is an elective tax. No one has to do this. No one has to smoke," he said.

The bill passed by a narrow 16 to 11 margin. 

It is backed by the governor, but insiders told News 9 it probably doesn’t have enough support in the full Legislature. 

Next, the bill goes before the full House of Representatives.