Word is that the Tax Reform Council created this past session by the General Assembly is considering a cigarette tax increase as part of the suggestions for “tax reform” that it will present in the next session.
One of the many reasons for increasing cigarette taxes from the nanny-statists is that it will deter smoking. These are generally the same people that will tell you in another breath that it’ll bring more tax revenue to the state as well. However, we can see from other parts of the country, such as District of Columbia, Florida, Maryland, New York and New Jersey, that when cigarette taxes are increased that sales decrease.
And when cigarette tax revenues fall, they’re going to look elsewhere to make up for the lost money. Either by spending cuts or raising taxes.
A point that should also be made is that higher cigarette taxes hit the poor the hardest. During the debate over expansion of SCHIP, the Associated Press concluded that cigarette taxes are “one tax that disproportionately affects the poor, who are more likely to smoke than the rich.” This also marked the first time that President Barack Obama broke his pledge not to raise taxes on individuals making under $200,000.
Roy Barnes considers the cigarette tax to be a “user fee,” according to an answer he gave the Georgia Association of Convenience Stores:
I have never proposed or voted for a tax increase in my career, and before we impose a tobacco tax user fee, I want to take a look at current tax breaks that has been given to special interests. As of 2006, there were sales tax exemptions worth over ten billion dollars alone. As Governor, I’ll take a hard look at these exemptions and if a tax break doesn’t benefit every Georgian – like the exemptions on groceries and drugs – then it’s on the table to be suspended till we can afford to educate our children and protect our citizens. We cannot continue to expect taxpayers to bare the burden for these special interest groups.
In November of last year, Nathan Deal told the Savannah Morning News that he would sign a bill increasing the cigarette tax:
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.
“Most tax increases are not going to be favorably received in a downturn economy,” he said.
But he said an increase in the cigarette levy “is one of the areas where there is more public acceptance.”
There are many arguments for increasing cigarette taxes, from keeping kids from smoking to raising tax revenues, but they don’t pan out. The issues at hand is really the inability of legislators to practice what they preach. They talk a great game on the campaign trail, but when it comes down to it they are going to do what all politicians do…buy votes by targeting a social bogeyman.
Vote carefully, Georgia.