Governor Supports Cigarette Tax Increase

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Facing a dismal economic forecast, the
governor of one of the nation's leading tobacco-producing states is
pushing to raise Kentucky's cigarette tax to $1 per pack.
Gov. Steve Beshear, who until now has opposed raising taxes to
solve Kentucky's fiscal woes, said Thursday he wants the General
Assembly to raise cigarette taxes by 70 cents per pack. Beshear
said the revenue generated from the tax hike could help state
government avoid making otherwise drastic funding cuts to education
and other public programs.
"As governor I've got a responsibility to step up and to
propose things that are going to protect our kids and protect our
citizens and give them the kind of services they need," Beshear
told reporters at a Capitol news conference.
Kentucky is currently facing an estimated revenue shortfall of
about $900 million over the next two fiscal years because of
sagging tax revenue and soaring expenses in the state's prison
system and Medicaid program, which provides health insurance
coverage for more than 722,000 low-income and disabled Kentuckians.
Beshear says he'd use proceeds from the tax increase to leverage
bonds and raise about $800 million in money to cover the next two
fiscal years. Beshear said the state could perhaps pay off the
20-year bonds in 12 years by dedicating money from the cigarette
tax to pay down the debt.
Beshear, a Democrat, has previously said he doesn't support
raising taxes to help cover the state's fiscal problems and viewed
them only as a last resort. Instead, Beshear has pushed a plan to
legalize casinos through a constitutional amendment and bring
estimated revenue of up to $600 million per year.
The Democrat-controlled House, however, has been unable to agree
on the gambling proposal, and its passage remains uncertain.
Beshear has said there aren't yet 60 "yes" votes needed to pass
it through the House, and Senate President David Williams,
R-Burkesville, has said he opposes the plan.
"That's still my preference. But, as we all know, it's in limbo
right now," Beshear said. "We have no idea if it's going to pass,
and it's been an uphill battle. And I can't stand by any longer and
risk the future of our kids and the health of our citizens without
stepping out here."
House Speaker Jody Richards, D-Bowling Green, has said
previously that lawmakers may be willing to endorse a less
expensive cigarette tax. House leaders are working separately on a
plan they have said could raise up to $800 million over the next
two years.
Richards was among a group who briefed Beshear on the plan
Thursday, and they plan to meet with him again Friday.
Beshear, however, said he did not support the House plan and
said it called for using "phantom money" to pay the state's
bills.
"Those are the kinds of things that I'm not going to stand for
if I have anything to do about it as governor," Beshear said.
House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, said he was
surprised that Beshear had changed his position on taxes. Hoover
said Republicans in the House were not likely to support raising
any taxes.
Anti-smoking advocates, however, praised the governor's
proposal.
"We think it's the right thing for him to do," said Tonya
Chang, a lobbyist for the American Heart Association in Kentucky.
"It shows tremendous courage and true leadership on his part."
The American Cancer Society, also an ardent supporter of a
higher cigarette tax, has launched an advertising campaign in
Kentucky aimed at convincing lawmakers in one of the nation's
leading tobacco-producing states to support the hike.
Beshear's proposal mirrors that of state Rep. David Watkins,
D-Henderson, who proposed raising Kentucky's tax on cigarettes to
$1 a pack. His proposal has been in limbo in the House
Appropriations and Revenue Committee.
The Legislative Research Commission estimates that the measure
could generate an additional $205 million in tax revenues. The
state currently receives $165 million a year from cigarette sales.
Watkins, a physician, said he believes the tax would raise the
price of cigarettes to a level that would cause people to stop
smoking, especially teens. The price of Marlboro, one of the most
popular brands in Kentucky, would rise to about $3.70 a pack.
Kentucky's cigarette tax now is only 30 cents per pack - the
third lowest in the nation. Until 2005, when lawmakers approved a
hike, the state's cigarette tax was 3 cents a pack, the lowest in
the nation.
Chang said raising the tax an additional 70 cents will cause
some smokers to give up cigarettes. That's critical in Kentucky,
which has the highest smoking rate in the nation.
Nearly 28 percent of Kentucky adults smoke, as do nearly 25
percent of Kentucky teens, according to the Centers for Disease
Control and Preventions in Atlanta.
---
Watkins' legislation is House Bill 443.
--
Associated Press Writer Roger Alford contributed to this story.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by Fran Location: Knott County on Mar 11, 2008 at 05:14 PM
    Just for the record, I am a smoker and NO ONE pays my medical bills! I can't get a medical card and can't afford to buy health insurance. Smokers can't take care of the states budget all by themselves. How about a tax for everybody? Both my husband and I work just about every day and we do NOT get a check from the government! What we get WE pay for!
  • by Wow Location: Richmond on Mar 11, 2008 at 02:45 PM
    @Enough Location: KY Like I tell the others READ MORE! He started the education bashing if you "RED" as you may understand it youd know that. SO just tryin to bash me just proved how ignorant you are. If you think opinions are like laws. My opinion if that you have no opinion.
  • by tina on Mar 10, 2008 at 04:18 PM
    well if they tax ciggerettes then they should beer and other alcoholic beverages i think its horse crap myself
  • by steve Location: irvine on Mar 10, 2008 at 04:10 PM
    Well whats it going to be next our oreo cookies man what a joke i do not smoke but i think that smokers have freedoms to if these liberal morons start here they will take your cookies next. Just look around at these clowns at what they are doing this will be the USSR if we let it i say vote this joker out when his time is up he is pathetic. Why don"t you try not spending so much instead of raising taxes and paying for worthless projects idiot.
  • by ADDICTED Location: Smokey Lane on Mar 10, 2008 at 04:05 PM
    Enough said.....gas is next to get the tax from Beshear.CHRIS SAID IT ALL. If Obama or Clinton get in we are doomed. I think I will go get me a horse and buggy,grow my own food and quit smoking.Then when Joey or Wow in Rich. need food or a lift I will scoot on down the road!!!
  • by Enough Location: KY on Mar 10, 2008 at 03:53 PM
    WOW! It must be nice to live in your world, where can I buy tickets? I have never heard more warped reasoning in my life. Most smokers know how bad smoking is and are not blaming others for their habit. What most on here are saying is that we don't need more taxes...on anything! Insulting the intelligence and geographic area of people stating their opinion shows the lack of yours. This is a comments section for people to express their opinions, not to be ridiculed by you or anyone else. But obviously you only respond when someone calls you on a comment. Either you have nothing else to do or just like to hear yourself talk, or in this case, read what you write. Why not just state your opinion on whatever the story is about and move on...
  • by Wow Location: Richmond on Mar 10, 2008 at 11:44 AM
    @Joey Location: Lex LMAO. Yeah these people are so uptight that they sit and visually spell check others typos on a rant typed whithin 30seconds and forgotten till I come back later, that they dont even realize their own Eky edumacation is lacking. Hence more laborers smoke than chemical engineers. @Enough! Location: KY ,Observer Location: Somewhere When drugs were made illegal by taxing them in 1914 and so forth it was a unfair and racial tactic. Now that they can do the same to cigarette smokers of all walks of life you cry that its unfair that something you decided to to (Most of you illegally doing so unless smokes where legal for under 18 when you started). Try to say its prejiduce and blame other groups for their wrongs to self jusify your own. Thats like sayin it's ok to spray DDT as long as your neighbor does it too. Also taxing drugs DID NOT increase taxes on other goods! They merely created a black market as making smokes illegal would do so now.
  • by ADDICTED Location: Smokey Lane on Mar 10, 2008 at 11:43 AM
    Joey...I never claim to be perfect. I don't give a crap how my wording is put. I am against taxes on smokes. WOW got on here and threw the first stone. I simply threw a few back. As for you, I could care less what you think!!!As I was trying to make my point-- Look in todays news at the proposed tax on gas.None of you non-smokers, that thought it was fine to punish us smokers, will like it one bit.I don't like it either but hell, I am going to pay more for smokes so why not pay more for gas? Gotta love our Governor!!!!!!
  • by mike on Mar 10, 2008 at 11:16 AM
    Let's look at this for a moment shall we . We don't want gaming , we don't want a cigarette tax , we don't want to raise our fuel tax , our property tax , our capital gains , our corporations and on we go . Well I have a solution , lets turn this state , this country into a socialist government . They plan everything for you and you don't have a thing to worry about . They tell you if you can smoke, drink , gamble , worship , drive , work , everything is just great except freedom , yes freedom , if you want that you'll have to pay your way . One way or the other , sorry it takes money , now you deside where or who it's coming from . Seems no matter what our government comes up with someone don't like it . It's unfair , it's not moral , but I like to eat big fat burgers and kill myself . Whatever , da .
  • by bridget Location: harlan on Mar 10, 2008 at 10:57 AM
    the tax increase sucks.

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