Nathan Deal becomes Ron Stephens’ BFFL

US Rep. Nathan Deal, who is seeking the GOP nomination for Georgia of Georgia, told the Savannah Morning News that he’d sign a $1 per pack cigarette tax hike into law if it were passed by the legislature, hoping to use the revenues to plug the budget gap:

U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal says he’d sign a bill raising the state cigarette tax $1 a pack if he’s elected governor next year.

Campaigning this week in Savannah, Deal said the bill deserves consideration, but added he probably wouldn’t push for its passage.

The Gainesville lawmaker’s comments are the closest any GOP candidate for governor has come to backing the proposal.

Nevermind that Florida has seen a drop in demand because of a $1 per pack tax increase (once again showing that sin taxes aren’t really going to help revenue problems) and nevermind that it’s bad public policy, I want to know why Republicans in this state have such an amazing obsession with government, so much that six tax increases were put on the table last year.

Yes, revenues are falling. However, Georgia’s problems are not from a lack of revenue. Our legislators have a spending problem. As the Georgia Public Policy Foundation has pointed out, the the budget has grown far beyond the population growth plus inflation benchmark, because Republicans choose to preserve the status-quo when they took control of both chambers of the General Assembly in January 2005.

If legislators and prospective candidates for Governor are so concerned about the budget, they need to get behind the zero-based budget proposal (the Senate and House each passed a version of this last year, but it has been bogged down in committee in the other chamber ever since). Let’s start justifying every dollar we spend. Let’s see how much waste is really in the budget and how many programs aren’t deserving of taxpayer funding.


  1. Doug Deal says:

    I must admit that Deal was my second choice for gov, but since the apparent scandals and pandering on silly issues and now this, I think he might be down in a virtual tie with the Ox.

    Is it desperation for gaining traction that is causing him to grab at straws? The only thing I have heard lately from his campaign workers as a reason to vote for him was that Karen Handel was having trouble fund raising. Not exactly inspiring stuff.

  2. LoyaltyIsMyHonor says:

    “Nevermind that Florida has seen a drop in demand because of a $1 per pack tax increase (once again showing that sin taxes aren’t really going to help revenue problems) and nevermind that it’s bad public policy…”

    Jason, so you think that a decline in smoking is bad public policy? I know most people think it’s only meant to create a new or increased revenue stream, but the other side of the coin is that it’s meant to cut the demand in smoking. So any cut in demand is a win, right?

    I know, I know, I’m going to get skewered by the Libertarians and true Republicans on here….

    • ByteMe says:

      You forgot the part where it helps lower the costs to government for healthcare for those smokers, since studies have shown that most (not all, of course) smokers are on the lower socio-economic rung and have a higher need for government healthcare subsidies or coverage.

      • ChuckEaton says:

        I’ve always wondered if it acutally decreases the cost for healthcare. Obviously, if a person has lung cancer there are medical costs associated with it, but statistically, if that person wasn’t dying of lung cancer, wouldn’t there be other major healthcare costs associated with a differnt ailment later in life? I honestly don’t know the answer. It would be unfair to isolate the medical costs of the dying smoker and assume that person would have no other medical costs, later in life, if they weren’t dying of smoking.

        I do know that smoking helps with social security costs.

      • Icarus says:

        Crass as though it may sound, I’m not sure this saves the government money. If they live longer, they will take up more medicare dollars over the long run for preventive/routine care and the costs associated with other elderly aging/healthcare.

        Add that to extended years of Social Security payments, and smokers may actually save government money, first by being heavily taxed, and then by “leaving the system” early before taking advantage of many of the benefits they’ve been paying for all their lives.

          • Progressive Dem says:

            Let’s eliminate speed limits, guard rails, lane striping, RR crossing signs and street lights to increase the fatality rate while reducing long-term medical and social security costs.

        • Mad Dog says:


          You’re pretty much right on the ‘leaving the system’ early. The most recent study that I’ve seen done was from the Netherlands. Until age 56, the obese consume the most in healthcare services. After age 56, smokers take the lead.

          Here’s a link to a NYT report,

          That 2002 study puts the healthcare cost at $3.45 (?) per pack but doesn’t include any offset for capture of taxes.

          Another study puts the total cost at $41 per pack.
          “Smokers pay about $33 of the cost, their families absorb about $7 and others pay a little less than $1.50, according to health economists from Duke University and a professor from the University of South Florida. The study drew on data including Social Security earnings histories dating to 1951.

          Incidental costs such as higher cleaning bills and lower resale values for smokers’ cars were not included. ”

          There are two theories including the one you stated.

          1. They exit pension systems earlier and therefore save the pension systems money by paying in more than they withdraw. (Ignores that surviving spouses and children draw from the pension system.)

          2. Smokers get chronic illnesses younger and at a higher rate. (Doesn’t include consideration of tobacco as a gateway drug.)

          Don’t know what you might think about tobacco being a gateway drug. Research says it is but researchers disagree about why.

          Georgia state taxes on tobacco are just about lowest in the nation, 47th overall.

          Using the oft quoted ‘lower taxes increase jobs,’ we must be doing real well.

          Tobacco is also an interesting study in other aspects of taxation. Demand as measured by sales is inelastic, suggesting tobacco as a need. Or an trong addiction.

          Interesting thoughts you arroused. Thanks.

          • macho says:

            It’s been interesting to see some great points made and see that others don’t have the intellectual capacity to move beyond demagoguing and straw man arguments.

            Nobody is saying that people dying early is a good thing, posters are just pointing out the possible fallacies in the “smoking costs society money argument.”

            Obviously, at some point demand would go down, like a $100 a pack tax. I guess the black market would come into play, because the tax would have the same effect as prohibition. I’ve heard there is a large black market for cigarettes in Canada.

      • ByteMe says:

        In general, the studies I saw showed that the costs involved with keeping a smoker alive are higher than with someone who does not smoke, even accounting for the somewhat shortened lifespan. Has something to do with being sick more often with things that require a trip to the doctor.

        Not to mention that the lungs aren’t the only place where smokers have a higher incidence of getting cancer. Mouth, nose, tongue (yuck!), gums… not to mention increased heart issues.

        • LoyaltyIsMyHonor says:

          Well we have low cost “generic” cigarettes to kill off the poor earlier. At least that is the “conspiracy theory” behind them 😉

        • Mad Dog says:


          In order by frequency, diseases affecting the heart and lungs, with smoking being a major risk factor for heart attacks, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), emphysema, and cancer, particularly lung cancer, cancers of the larynx and mouth, and pancreatic cancer.

          • Game Fan says:

            “risk factors” is about as far away from a scientific analysis of cause and effect or the proper use of statistics as you could possibly get. For example, a mammogram could be considered a risk factor for breast cancer because a much higher percentage of people diagnosed with breast cancer have also had mammograms.

        • Game Fan says:

          Well, just remember, if Tobacco is a gateway drug then your higher incidence of cancers, and other health issues with all types of drug users and, people with “high risk occupations” will definitely have a much higher percentage of smokers. In other words, a meth head is probably also a tobacco user. We’re talking about a small percentage of tobacco users who use other drugs which pegs the charts on the bad health o meter.

      • Demonbeck says:

        It’s being sold as an immediate revenue generator that creates health care cost savings in the long run. I don’t smoke, so I don’t have any issues with it. I would prefer a user fee type tax over a tax that everyone has to pay any day of the week.

        • Mad Dog says:

          Right. It will generate money and MAY reduce healthcare costs. MHO, it will NOT reduce healthcare costs unless the revenue is used in ‘stop smoking campaigns’ among the young. Which isn’t being discussed by Deal or others in the thread.

          So, I only see it as a revenue mechanism that will work.

    • Lifetime367 says:

      Statistics from reliable sources consistently make it clear that an increase in tobacco taxes leads to a decline in smoking rates, especially in minors. Besides the obvious health benefits of such a development, it also saves taxpayers millions of dollars as it leads to a decrease in smoking related illnesses. And there’s still a direct revenue benefit. The Georgia OPB estimated that the tobacco tax increase proposed by Ron Stephens would result in $449 million a year in new revenue.

      And by the way,… last time I checked smoking is a choice making this a voluntary tax.

  3. Technocrat says:

    As an ex smoker, taxing smokers an extra $550 might be good for them. Walmart has 107 4 mg Nicotine Lozenges for $30 which substituted very well for my 2 pack per day habit – burning them up sitting at computer staining the walls.

    Actually Pure Nicotine is not very bad for you [as addictive drugs go] useful in Alzheimers, Mental Illness, Parkinson’s, Arthritis, and other aging diseases. Nicotine Blocks Cytokine Storms and effects of pulmonary problems.

  4. There are two ways to take what Deal said:

    1. That he’s not going to be active in pushing this bill through the legislature if elected – but will sign it if it comes to him, OR
    2. Deal really thinks it is good policy and supports it.

    I think the first is more on target, and the second is what most are inferring from what was said. What I find more troubling is that Deal hasn’t taken a position on this yet – I want a Governor who makes up his own mind and ties his own shoes, not simply someone who defers to the legislature. I realize being stuck up in D.C. makes it difficult to stay versed in both Federal and State law – but to merely say something like this deserves consideration shows a lack of knowledge that may or may not exist.

    I think this is another case of Deal showing us how much he loves Ling-Ling the Pander Baer. (Note the spellings)

  5. Technocrat says:

    Most states use less than 10% of Tobacco money for smoking cessation therapy.
    Few SIN TAXES are collected to help the sinners.

    Now the politican who offered to tax more and use ALL THE MONEY collected for FREE or reduced price nicotine replacement products would get my vote.

  6. SouthPeach says:

    Deal just lost my vote. I was all for him for Governor, but I will NOT support another Republican who is trying to legislate my entire life or the ones around me!!! I am sick of them…they say less government and they are the ones who are trying to legislate our entire lives…!!!! So, I’m open for another person to support…convince me your candidate is the best…but, if they want to legislate my private life…don’t even bother. They can NOT legislate morality!!!!!

  7. fishtail says:

    looks like Eric Johnson’s plan is working…infiltrate all the other GOP campaigns…give them seemingly great advice and get them to do something stupid like advocate a tax increase…

    • I don’t really know the first thing about Eric Johnson, and I agree that he’s fast becoming the most attractive option on the GOP side of the ballot. How sad is that?

  8. Technocrat says:

    25% of US adults smoke!
    Interesting that first place W. Virginia [then OK and TN] has a 31% smoking rate while the Left Wing Country of California is just down to 19.8%.
    “Colorado is the only state showing an increase in tobacco use (from 26.5% to 29.8%)

    As they are proving now about 20% of population has a deviant gene/epigene that makes it almost impossible to quit once exposed.

    So for these 20%, higher taxes are truely cruel and unusal punishment without help.
    Maybe a script for Oxycotin can dull their pain.

  9. Technocrat says:

    What would Nathan Deal do if he truely understood [had a simple brain] that there are 1.8>2,200,000 people of Voting Age who are smokers in the State of Georgia…………….and they undestood the he wanted to REMOVE $500 to $1,000 from them for nothing or a punishment

    Hopefully the TOBACCO INDUSTRY helps the public find out by putting his face on a few million packs [aka Milk Cartons].

    Maybe the OX will keep his mouth shut on this one and pick up those VOTERS.

    • Lifetime367 says:

      yeah… it’s a great idea to count on the tobacco industry to educate the public… they have such a longstanding record of integrity

  10. Mad Dog says:

    Ah … the smoking demographic in elections. I like it! How many of them are old enough to vote and what’s the voting rate among the group?

    I’ll pass the info along …. I just won’t say to who …

    • macho says:

      My guess is, smokers as a whole, probably vote less than the overall population. That demographic just doesn’t seem very thoughtful to me.

  11. Hank Burnham says:

    Foolish on Deal’s part. I could not support him now and at one point was strongly considering him. I think he just lost quite a few primary votes on this and I doubt gained many from it. Just a reminder that there are quite a few Republicans out there that don’t even shudder at the thought of raising our taxes. Nathan Deal appears to be one of them.

    • Lifetime367 says:

      “thought of raising ‘our’ taxes”

      I don’t smoke so an increase in tobacco taxes is not an increase in my taxes. It’s a user fee – like a toll road. They don’t have to pay the user fee unless they use the product. It makes all kind of sense to me, especially since our tobacco taxes are some of the lowest in the nation.

  12. Game Fan says:

    These phonies with the sin taxes. If they were for real they’d already be raising a stink with how revenues are already used. If smoking is such a burden, then let’s look at the revenues from the existing taxes and apply it directly to health-related issues from smoking. But, no, it’s much easier to pit smokers against non-smokers. Forget the fact that these JACKASSES never heard of the concept of a “lock box” because “funds can be used for” is just the talking point to get the damned thing passed. Same for Social Security, the gas tax, liquer tax, or whatever. Ass hats and scumbags in coat-and-tie. I’m disgusted.

    • macho says:

      Since we are talking about “sin” taxes, maybe there should be a tax on elected officials who do business with the government.

      • Icarus says:

        Would be easier to do if these elected officials didn’t have verbal contracts with no record of work product.

        Has Tim Bearden had enough time yet where he has finally composed answers to questions about his business with City of Carrollton and is willing to discuss/defend?

  13. Game Fan says:

    One of my previous comments never made it through the filter apparently, probably because the link was more of an ad. Anyhoo, I’ve just discovered that you can buy cigarettes TAX FREE on the internet. That’s what I call free trade! Other terms to consider: The Laffer curve and, as a smoker, the “straw that broke the camel’s back”. HAHA! YEAH.

  14. Technocrat says:

    When I lived in Puerto Rico in 80’s and early 90’s there was a 19.6% tax on everything brought on to island for sale. Every external US mail, UPS, Fedex package, container load, etc required you to pay tax before delivery based on bill of lading [packing slip].
    You got a delivery notification, then took it to local Patente office paid tax got a 3 copy receipt then took it to delivery company and picked up your package. In the country you stuck receipt in door and the driver left the package maybe if it wasn’t valuable.

    States have ways to deal with no sales tax from INET.

    Read your State Income tax documents where your are required to pay sales tax on items from out of state. Just not enforced against individuals, YET!

    Doctors would fly to Miami and bring back $25,000 worth of prescription drugs every few weeks saving $5,000.
    PR eventually lowered the rate to 6-9% depending so smuggling was greatly reduced.

    As some have pointed out. Tax rates must be optimized for revenue collected. Not to high to make criminals out of the average guy.

  15. Silent Outrage says:

    I think it’s time for someone to start getting nails ready to hammer into the casket for the Deal campaign, politically speaking so to say…

    He very well may raise a lot of money and appear viable to some of the less informed voters in the Republican Party, but if he is the nominee in a general election matchup – Republicans have just handed the keys to the Governor’s mansion to the Democrats and who knows what else down ballot.

    I mean, can you really have someone at the top of the ticket who a) had an inside deal with the State of Georgia over 18 years that made them a millionaire who abused their office to protect the deal b) is ranked as one of Washington DC’s 15 most corrupt Members of Congress c) made racially insensitive remarks d) used those insensitive remarks to raise money and now e) wants to raise taxes by $400 million in the worse economy in a generation…

    Just wait, with Nathan Deal on the ballot, all kinds of Republicans are going to have to defend this kind of ethical corruption and it’s going to take the party down with it in Georgia.

    Deal. Real. Over.

  16. Dave Bearse says:

    Where are you supply siders? Why not decrease taxes and simulate sales and expand sales thereby increase total tax revenue?

    • macho says:

      Would be funny to reduce taxes to increase smoking revenue. Anybody who doesn’t believe in supply side economics just needs to stand outside of Wal-Mart the midnight before Black Friday.

  17. GOPGeorgia says:

    “A message from Nathan Deal

    I want to make clear my position regarding tax increases. I do not support raising taxes on any Georgia taxpayer, period. I have voted against every tax increase proposal in Congress and have been awarded an ‘A’ rating by the National Taxpayers Union.
    Recently, I was asked, hypothetically, about a bill to increase tobacco taxes and if I would sign it as governor.
    As Governor, before I veto or sign into law legislation the General Assembly has passed, I will approach the decision in a diligent and attentive manner. As governor, I will not submit a budget to the General Assembly that raises taxes on the citizens of Georgia.
    Additionally on tobacco taxes, I have voted eight times in the past three years against increases in tobacco taxes. I have a proven conservative record of opposing tax increases.

    Let me be absolutely clear on the issue of raising taxes: I have a voting record that demonstrates my position in opposing tax increases.”

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