House Speaker Ponders Cig Tax Hike To Aid Schools

FRANKFORT, Ky. -- House Speaker Jody Richards said yesterday that he would consider backing an increase in the state cigarette tax if it's needed to prevent cuts in education funding, reports the Louisville Courier-Journal in its Saturday edition.

"I don't think the cigarette tax increase is the worst thing that ever came down the pike," the Bowling Green Democrat told reporters after yesterday's House session.

Gov. Steve Beshear recently announced a plan to partly address a budget shortfall of nearly $300 million this year, including a 3 percent funding cut to state universities, the newspaper reports.

And a projected shortage of more than $500 million in the next fiscal year has prompted Beshear to warn of cuts of as much 12 percent to universities and state agencies and 7 percent to public schools in 2008-09, reports the C-J.

The governor has blamed a downturn in the national economy, lagging employment in Kentucky, high gas prices and a slump in the housing industry for the revenue shortfall.

Richards said he sympathizes with Beshear because of the budget outlook he inherited.

"I think the governor is doing the very best job he can do," Richards said. "He has been given a terrible hand to play."

But the speaker said he wants to avoid cuts to schools and any further cuts to higher education, reports the Courier-Journal.

"I really don't know how you can cut 12 percent. Now that would be devastating," he said.

On Thursday health advocates noted that Kentucky has the highest rates of smoking and lung cancer among the states and called for an increase of 75 cents a pack in Kentucky's 30-cent-a-pack cigarette tax.

Richards said he agreed with Senate Democratic Leader Ed Worley of Richmond, who said he preferred to consider a cigarette tax increase before cutting education funding, reports the newspaper, reports the Courier-Journal.

"Yes I do," Richards said. "… I don't know where we will go with it, but I think there are several of us in the House that would be very interested in looking at the cigarette tax."

He said he had no idea how much the tax should or could be raised. But he said the fate of the measure would depend largely on the level of education funding in the budget Beshear will propose Jan. 29.

Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, said later that he sees little sentiment for any increase in the cigarette tax.

And Beshear's spokeswoman Vicki Glass said Beshear believes Kentuckians are taxed enough and remains opposed to a tax increase of any kind, reports the Louisville Courier-Journal.

Copyright: The Louisville Courier-Journal

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  • by Gene Location: Lexington, Ky. on Jan 14, 2008 at 03:42 PM
    God bless Richmond and her vast wealth of knowledge.
  • by sja Location: lex on Jan 13, 2008 at 02:23 PM
    So we are telling our children it IS ok to smoke. Way to go Kentucky, Unbridled Stupidity.
  • by Wow Location: Richmond on Jan 13, 2008 at 01:20 PM
    @Ponder? Location: More like Pounder ARe you nuts or what? DO you not realise there is river boat gambling and bingo constantly going on? Have you never met a men thats paycheck was gone by his wifes bingo habit? Is there not bars open already on main streets in most countys? Wake up all the things your talking about are already here. We just dont see any profit from it.
  • by Jedidiiah Location: Kentucky on Jan 12, 2008 at 08:41 PM
    It is no secret that the new Governor is wanting to get the casinos into Kentucky. What better way than to scare people about our kids and their education! I will not be suprised when it, (the casinos) is brought up for the solution to all our, (Kentucky's) problems. Concern Citizen
  • by Ponder? Location: More like Pounder on Jan 12, 2008 at 03:27 PM
    None to fear, casino gambling will fix all of our problems. Birds will sing and butterflys will fly. A few small side affects may include but are not limited to; prostitution, organized crime, more drunks on our roads and idiots blowing every last penny the have and John Q. Taxpayer being every baby daddy. O happy day.
  • by Phil Location: Louisville on Jan 12, 2008 at 01:13 PM
    Kentucky has the highest smoking rate in the nation at close to 30%. The state also has some of the cheapest cigarettes in the land. Taxpayers are paying for the consequence of this when smokers with government insurance end up costing the health care system extra. Not only would a tobacco tax increase help fund important programs that may be cut, but it would help pay for the increased medical costs that smokers incure. And studies show that they cost almost twice as much as non-smokers when it comes to health care expenses. Cancers, lung disease and emphysema are not cheap ailments to treat.
  • by J.S. Location: KY on Jan 12, 2008 at 11:08 AM
    If the schools cut the fat out of their budgets and spend the "lottery dollars" appropriately, there should be no need for new taxes.


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