Ga. lawmaker wants to hike cigarette tax $1

Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2010 5:40 AM
Last updated 12:29 PM
  • Follow Government

SAVANNAH, Ga. -- As the state faces a continued budget crunch, Rep. Ron Stephens says he'll try again to raise cigarette taxes a buck a pack.

The Savannah Republican wants to lift the levy from 37 cents to $1.37 per pack, adding to the $5 or so a pack most Georgians pay to puff.

Stephens has pushed the idea in the last two sessions of the General Assembly. He has strong support from Democrats, but little in his own party, which controls both chambers.

"I'm just going to have to work a little harder at getting it done," he said.

He estimates his plan would raise at least $400 million a year, but says it can leverage $1 billion more in federal funds.

It would devote proceeds to Medicaid, the federal-state program that funds treatment for lower-income patients.

That would qualify Georgia for federal matching funds - about two and a half times what it paid in, Stephens said.

That in turn, would free up state money for trauma centers that treat critically injured people, he added.

Georgia voters rejected a Nov. 2 ballot measure to fund the centers by increasing auto tag fees $10 a year.

It will be hard to find another way to finance the centers because Georgia already faces a projected budget shortfall of at least $1.5 billion.

Stephens said the state pays about $500 million a year to treat victims of smoking-related illness.

"I think it's a no-brainer," he said of his plan. "It's time to stop subsidizing health care on the backs of taxpayers as a result of one product."

About one in five Georgians smoke.

So far, legislative leaders in a position to make or break the proposal remain opposed.

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who presides over the Senate, "does not support raising taxes on Georgia's citizens," said spokesman Ben Fry.

Fry added Cagle wants to consider the recommendations - due in January - of a state commission on tax reform.

Interviewed on Oct. 14, House Speaker David Ralston rejected higher cigarette taxes.

"Nothing has changed," Marshall Guest, a spokesman for Ralston, said Tuesday.

One thing that is changing is the governor.

Outgoing Gov. Sonny Perdue opposed Stephens' legislation, but Gov.-elect Nathan Deal has said he would sign such a bill.

"I would say these are the kinds of things we have to look at," Deal said last November.

Stephens said Deal reaffirmed that position in a recent conversation.

Sen. Buddy Carter, R-Pooler, said the idea "makes sense," but added he wants to review the details before agreeing to back it.

Local hospitals also voiced support.

"It deserves very, very serious consideration" especially if it can attract federal matching funds, said Paul Hinchey, president and CEO of St. Joseph's/Candler. "We need to commend Rep. Stephens for taking another swing at this."

Phillip S. Schaengold, Memorial Health president and CEO, also praised the proposal.

Schaengold said it could make money available for areas such as trauma services "from those who cost the health care system the most money."

"More importantly," he added, "by increasing the price of cigarettes, it will deter young people from smoking."

Foes have said it would encourage smokers in border towns such as Savannah to buy cigarettes in South Carolina.

But Hinchey said that potential incentive has shrunk. The Palmetto State's cigarette levy rose 50 cents a pack on July 1.

Comments (80) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
InChristLove
22480
Points
InChristLove 11/10/10 - 07:04 am
0
0
I'm all for keeping our youth

I'm all for keeping our youth from smoking and the possibility of older adults quitting because of the cost but this theory just doesn't make sense to me.

You are in a budget crunch so you raise the tax on a product that is already costing a great deal for individuals. IF individuals say the heck with it, refuse to pay that outrageous cost and quit smoking....it's wonderful they quit but your also back in a budget crunch again because people are quitting and not buying cigarettes.

Why not spread the tax increase out over several products like fast food, alcohol, and even raise the tax on cigarettes. Like my parents told me, don't place all your eggs in one basket, it's not wise.

OhWell
326
Points
OhWell 11/10/10 - 07:21 am
0
0
Smoking helps no one and

Smoking helps no one and hurts many. Much of our indigent health care is the result of smoking. Why not let them pay for their own grave they are digging them. If they quit smoking and we loose taxes we are all still blessed.

RAINBOW
11
Points
RAINBOW 11/10/10 - 08:08 am
0
0
drinking helps no one

drinking helps no one either,but do you hear them wanting to raise the tax on that to a dollar a bottle,you can smoke and drive with no risk of crossing a yellow line but you cant drink and drive without that risk,so which makes more sense to they higher tax?Tobacco or drink?

gadawg1968
4
Points
gadawg1968 11/10/10 - 08:24 am
0
0
Smoking is a choice. It is up

Smoking is a choice. It is up to the individual if they smoke or not. These people who suffer from COPD, Asthma etc... because of smoking...let them pay their own hospital bills. I am a smoker and if I suffer from it then so be it. i am sick of being ostracized because I smoke. Big deal...and now I have to pay an outrageous price for a pack of cigarettes because people were allowed to sue the companies for something that they did to themselves.

Taylor B
5
Points
Taylor B 11/10/10 - 08:54 am
0
0
All of you are missing the

All of you are missing the point. Taxation for citizen behavior modification is a clear move to a nanny state. This guy is a clear cut statist. The fact that Deal supports this move flies in the face that Deal is a "conservative."

onlysane1left
216
Points
onlysane1left 11/10/10 - 08:54 am
0
0
I agree, gadawg1968. I'm not

I agree, gadawg1968. I'm not a smoker, but I think that the industry was hurt by the lawsuit and now every year I hear of another tax on cigarettes and tobacco products; on top of the fact, there is nowhere smokers can go to smoke anymore, it like they are second class citizens. It ridiculous.

corgimom
33165
Points
corgimom 11/10/10 - 09:03 am
0
0
Gadawg, you say that now. My

Gadawg, you say that now. My brother is dying from COPD- because of smoking.

When you get sick- and you WILL get sick- you will feel differently. He had the same attitude until he started getting really sick.

beenaroundtheblock
2
Points
beenaroundtheblock 11/10/10 - 09:07 am
0
0
I am a smoker...I pay a

I am a smoker...I pay a surcharge on my insurance, smoke outside, and respect people's right not to be affected by my habit, but enough is enough. Overeating is also harmful to one's health but there is no insurance surcharge for that. Alcohol is also harmful to one's health but there is no surcharge for someone who drinks either. Please quit picking on smokers....tired of it

justus4
103
Points
justus4 11/10/10 - 09:09 am
0
0
The article FAILS to address
Unpublished

The article FAILS to address how this guy can form his mouth to say "raise taxes" when all day & all night (R)s are yapping about "government" and NO higher taxes. What is his motives? Who is lobbing him? How hypocritical can one get? Is this a violation of a campaign promise? Who contributed to his election? Well, this exposes it all...

Chillen
17
Points
Chillen 11/10/10 - 09:41 am
0
0
First a nudge - educate the

First a nudge - educate the consumers to stop smoking. Then a shove - warning labels on cigarettes. Then legislation - charge people extra taxes if they smoke. Eventually they will outlaw them. Read the book "The Nudge". It will become clear to you what our govt is doing.

TaylorB is totally correct. We have become a nanny state. Govt is blinks away from controlling our every move!

I don't smoke but I know it's coming with other products - candy, fast food, gas.....anything the govt thinks we should not be eating or using too much of.

Yes, it does figure that Deal supports this. That's why I didn't vote for him.

airbud7
1
Points
airbud7 11/10/10 - 09:21 am
0
0
This would be great for South

This would be great for South Carolina Business(run over to S.C.once a week and get your smokes)☺

ruach
0
Points
ruach 11/10/10 - 09:41 am
0
0
No surprise here. Smokers

No surprise here. Smokers continue to be demonized by those who wish to impose their own values on others. These same people supporting this will be the first to cry out when the Nanny State comes after something they do like.....sugar, fats, etc. etc...the list is never-ending.

My mom has smoked for over 60 years....she does not have cancer, she does not have COPD, she has no real health issues other than those of being elderly...she's in her mid-80's now. I know folks who have never smoked and have died from cancer and COPD....go figure....guess all these know-it-alls can be wrong.

InChristLove
22480
Points
InChristLove 11/10/10 - 09:54 am
0
0
OhWell stated "Smoking helps

OhWell stated "Smoking helps no one and hurts many. Much of our indigent health care is the result of smoking. Why not let them pay for their own grave they are digging them. If they quit smoking and we loose taxes we are all still blessed."

Yes, it would be a blessing for everyone who smokes to quit. My question is after smoker's quit, where will the tax money come from? How about sweets? What about fast food next? Nah, lets tax the heck out of sodas, diet and regular......that will bring in the big bucks.

I don't think they really care where the money comes from as long as they get the matching federal money.....cigarettes are just an easy target.

raul
5012
Points
raul 11/10/10 - 10:00 am
0
0
I would support a "Fat Tax".

I would support a "Fat Tax".

PUPPYMOMMA
1344
Points
PUPPYMOMMA 11/10/10 - 10:06 am
0
0
Didn't smoker's get hit this

Didn't smoker's get hit this past year with a tax hike of $6 TO $8 more per carton? I know so. Instead of hiking up the cost again to help pay for Medicaid, how 'bout we cut the rolls instead? Quit passing out WIC and other entitlements to illegal aliens. That should save a fortune. How"bout stop rewarding mothers that think it is their reproductive right to have the state pay for more kids. I'm sick of being picked on. I wish I and the rest of the smoker's could quit,then see who the government can pick on next. As far as health problems, I'm aware of them and the results. Obesity is a big threat to health also. I'm not suggesting we tax the twinkies but if they tax my cigarettes everything else should be fair game too.

lemon42
0
Points
lemon42 11/10/10 - 10:40 am
0
0
In the article it states that

In the article it states that "Stephens said the state pays about $500 million a year to treat victims of smoking-related illness." now this is taking him at his word, but the theory being that the loss of tax money from those who quit smoking would be made up for by people not being taken care of over those smoking related illnesses.

I suppose you could do away with the tax altogether and just have certain diseases that medicaid just wouldn't pay for. If you wanted to live in that kind of society.

boredinaug
97
Points
boredinaug 11/10/10 - 10:54 am
0
0
I agree with

I agree with PUPPYMOMMA..."how 'bout we cut the rolls instead"? I am not a smoker and have never been one, but it makes me mad to see taxes being raised on ANYTHING to bank roll more MEDICAID. If Medicaid is putting this type of strain on our states finances...why not cut Medicaid??? My God, where does it end? Why have we not implemented some sort of restriction on people who are allowed to have child after child that they are not able to provide for financially? Unless someone is retarded or has other mental issues, most parents are well aware of their financial ability or inability to care for their child BEFORE becoming pregnant. Birth control is readily available and can be easily obtained for FREE. I can't understand the mentality of some of our leaders in the United States who feel that two thirds of our country's citizens should work like fools to take care of the other lazy one third. It's not right to make smokers pay for Medicaid. That would definitely make me stop smoking though...to think they would be getting an additional DIME of my money. Where do they come up with these ideas???

marlboroman152
0
Points
marlboroman152 11/10/10 - 11:23 am
0
0
ok, let me understand this.

ok, let me understand this. The stat has a budget shortfall of 1.5B, yet the blame for the falls squarely on smokers. Not certain how Mr. Stephens determined who was to blame but he needs to reexamine his decision. In that light lets tax churchs, increase business taxes, tax the health/non-smokers,tax the overweight and lets not forgot tax the criminals.

fireman2
0
Points
fireman2 11/10/10 - 11:25 am
0
0
Mr Ron Stephens needs to lay

Mr Ron Stephens needs to lay off the cigarettes tax and go for a 2.00 tax on Alcohol on each and every bottle and can sold you know why he wont do that because he and his friends drink its that simple . Also while you are at it rase the fine for DUI to a min of 2000.00 up to a 10,000 Dollars the frist time .

Local Interests
40
Points
Local Interests 11/10/10 - 11:39 am
0
0
Smokers are second class

Smokers are second class citizens. Period. There are many harmful habits but smoking is unique in that the smoker forces his habit passively onto all of those around him.
ruach's mother is the statistical exception to the rule. That does not change the statistics.
Tobacco should be heavily taxed. In truth, it should be treated just like any other drug and be illegal but it's too late for that.
The nanny state argument is not valid as it ultimately leads to a world most would not want to live in - one of no society or structure.
Fast food taxes and cracking down on welfare abuse are certainly worthy avenues as well, but should be considered on their own merit and not instead of this rather obvious solution.
Only 20% of Georgians smoke and most agree that it's a bad habit and generally harmful to the smoker and all those around him. This is not a base deserving support. Smokers are a significant drain on the societal infrastructure and the meager taxes and additional premiums they currently pay hardly put a dent in their cost to society.

Suzy Q
1
Points
Suzy Q 11/10/10 - 11:55 am
0
0
Anyone who thinks the

Anyone who thinks the government would like to see smoking (or tobacco use) eradicated is fooling themselves. They are pulling in big bucks from tobacco and don't want to lose it. The only reason they get away with raising the taxes like this is because it's very PC to denigrate smokers.
God help you in this country if you are a white, middle-class male Christian smoker. You're basically wearing a bullseye for socially and politically accepted discrimination.
For those that approve of the tax hike, remember this... today it's tobacco, tomorrow it might be your vice. There has been discussion of taxing fast-food, sodas and anything else the government considers unhealthy.
We are required by law to wear helmets to ride a bicycle and seat belts in our vehicles. While these things certainly aren't harmful, the government in it's infinite wisdom has decided that we aren't intelligent enough to make decisions for ourselves, therefore they must legislate even the smallest details in our lives. They like to ride in like a knight in shining armor with the answers to all of our problems, when in truth our biggest problem is their collective horses pooping in our front yards.

What's next? How much intrusion are the law-abiding people who WORK for a living willing to tolerate? The government subsidize illegals and the lazy, handing over housing, food, medical and legal services without question, but our Veterans are warehoused in hospitals that aren't fit for livestock, or denied benefits outright after serving this country honorably. Even the illegals and welfare-sucking bunch can get a semi-private room in a hospital.... not so at your local VA. I've been in a small room with EIGHT veterans crammed in a what would be a semi-private room at any other hospital, separated by curtains that form tiny little rooms. This country fails it's veterans miserably, but makes darn sure that the baby-breeding bunch is cared for and helped to raise more generations of welfare sucking mongrels. The cart is definitely pulling the horse in our screwed up society, folks.

But, by all means, let's raise taxes on those smokers again. That's going to solve a bunch of problems (please insert heavy sarcastic tone). At the very least, it will give the government more money to throw at their money-grubbing constituents and help maintain their future voter base.

PUPPYMOMMA
1344
Points
PUPPYMOMMA 11/10/10 - 12:12 pm
0
0
Local interests- if 20

Local interests- if 20 percent of Georgians smoke, why are we suppose to take the fall for the other 80 percent? No, we are not second class citizens. What happened to the settlement funds from tobacco companies that was suppose to help smoker's quit. That's right- the greedy government must have put it into a general fund somewhere and now it's gone. If we must be taxed, then let the tax go to smoking cessation programs but then again, I don't need the government to regulate me. I'm sure that LI has a vice, whether you admit it or not.

Local Interests
40
Points
Local Interests 11/10/10 - 12:31 pm
0
0
puppymomma - you have it

puppymomma - you have it backwards. The 80% of us who do not smoke are taking the fall for the 20% of you that do.
I could care less about smoking cessation programs. You're an adult. If you want to quit then quit. If not quit expecting the rest of us to pay for the drain on society your habit is causing.

PUPPYMOMMA
1344
Points
PUPPYMOMMA 11/10/10 - 12:44 pm
0
0
Smokers pay at least 20

Smokers pay at least 20 percent more on just about any kind of insurance. What would you say to an AIDS patient that contracted disease through risky behaviours? Should we continue to pay for their treatment if they don't have insurance? What about the diabetics that ate their way to treatment? When I have to go to hospital for treatment, it's not like I haven't paid for it already. Maybe your vice is being a 'holier-than-thou'. If you're worried about the drain smokers are putting on your pocketbook then you should care about smoking cessation programs.

PUPPYMOMMA
1344
Points
PUPPYMOMMA 11/10/10 - 12:53 pm
0
0
LI- if nonsmokers are paying

LI- if nonsmokers are paying for my insurance then I guess I'm subsidizing your pension and nursing home care. If I die early, I can subsidize Social Security for someone else because I won't be collecting as much. Do you like an alcoholic drink occasionally? I do too, but I don't drink every day. An alcoholic puts more of a drain on society in terms of health care costs and drunk driving accidents. I'm not saying tax them more either. I'd rather see my tax dollars going for cutting their dependency instead of for their disability.

Dixieman
15331
Points
Dixieman 11/10/10 - 12:55 pm
0
0
Nanny state. You know who

Nanny state.
You know who will love this law? The smugglers. Look at the experience in NY and elsewhere.

bclicious
721
Points
bclicious 11/10/10 - 01:08 pm
0
0
Why not raise the taxes on

Why not raise the taxes on both Alcohol and Cigarettes? Both are not good for you, and both would allow us to raise alot of money while deterring people from unhealthy habits.

PUPPYMOMMA
1344
Points
PUPPYMOMMA 11/10/10 - 01:28 pm
0
0
Why not cut spending on

Why not cut spending on entitlement programs? Why not tax non exercisers or meat eaters? Government is going too far. I've had to adjust my household budget due to the economy , our state budgets need to be adjusted too.

mable8
2
Points
mable8 11/10/10 - 02:13 pm
0
0
Laws are to be made that are

Laws are to be made that are equal to everyone and targeting specific groups of citizens is certainly not equal. It is untrue that the public subsidizes the health care for those who smoke; as a matter of fact, it has been proven that all the monies collected from smokers for their "sin" haven't even been used to pay for the health care the legislators and attorneys claimed it would be. Some was spent on repairing roads--what's that got to do with "smoker's health"? Allow this idiotic senator to have his way and the next thing you will be taxed on is one's body weight because some think it is a "sin" to project a body image that is greater than twiggy--and to heck with the reason for that body image. It has also been proven that a single group of taxpayers can never pay enough to balance the government budget. If the good senator from Savannah wants to balance the State budget, then he should get rid of the frills he wants to pay for--like providing free transportation for his little jaunts to other States and other countries, or the studies he thinks is necessary for the procreation of little frogs he considers to be rare. We already know how frogs procreate, what makes a rare frog any different? And does the good senator really need the taxpayer monies to pay for his 'retreats' with his legislator cronies in order to "think about how we are going to change" 'x' in our government when his office and conference rooms will serve the same purpose? Get real senator--you are a genuine dumbo jerk (sorry, the monitors disallow any stronger words) who arrived on this planet straight from hxxx.

Suzy Q
1
Points
Suzy Q 11/10/10 - 02:20 pm
0
0
Local Interests....ask your

Local Interests....ask your insurance agent which raises your premiums MORE....tobacco use or obesity.

I bet you'll be surprised at the answer......

Back to Top

Top headlines

Students face charges after school brawl

Eight T.W. Josey High School students are facing criminal charges following a fight that broke out in the school's hallways last Thursday.
Search Augusta jobs