Alcohol/Tobacco Tax Bill Passes House

A highly debated tax on Kentucky's alcohol industry has cleared it's first hurdle.

Wednesday afternoon, the bill that increases taxes on liquor and cigarettes passed through Kentucky's house.

House Bill 144 passed 66 to 34, 6 votes more than the required number for it to pass. The vote followed more than an hour of debate.

Faced with a budget shortfall in the millions of dollars, some lawmakers say alcohol and cigarette taxes is a good short term fix.

“We have seen good and bad. Today is good,” said Ky. House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg.

Supporters of a 30 cent cigarette tax increase and a 6 percent alcohol sales tax increase said unless the tax passes, people will suffer.

“If you don’t vote for this, and it doesn’t pass, Medicaid will be cut, deeply it’s clear,” said Rep. Harry Moberly, D-Richmond.

But others say any tax increase sets a bad example.

“If Kentucky leads the way by imposing additional taxes on some of their own, their signature industry, what kind of signal is that for all the other states?” asked Rep. Scott W. Brinkman, D-Louisville.

But amongst the debate there was a hint of the possibility of broader reforms to come. Rep. Jim Wayne voted for the bill but only after some leaders said they would be willing to study comprehensive tax reform.

“This is a horrible bill, “ said Wayne, “It does not do what we want it to do. And what it does it does very badly. It does not produce enough revenue.”

The bill now moves to the Senate and if it passes there, it could land on the Governor’s desk by Friday.

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