Thursday, June 4, 2009

Pennsylvania Cigarette Tax (continued - Part 3)

Killing "Pennsylvanians" One Pack at a Time; by Craig Friebolin
I got a cut-and-paste response from the Governor’s Office today and you can see my response below:

"Thank you for your recent correspondence about the 10-cent per pack cigarette tax increase that I included in my budget proposal for the coming year. As you know, Pennsylvania and all other states are feeling the impact of the national recession, and 2009-10 budget represents a momentous challenge to ensure fiscal discipline while making critical invests that grow our economy and protect Pennsylvanians who need help during this economic storm.

The federal government and every state in the U.S. impose some sort of tax on cigarettes,
usually for two reasons. First, cigarette taxes help raise the price of the product, which discourages consumption, especially by kids. Second, cigarette taxes are enacted to fund public programs for the common good, and often the programs that benefit from cigarette tax revenue are directly related to health care initiatives. Here in Pennsylvania, the largest portion of our budget goes toward funding health care, and the increased cigarette tax will help us meet those obligations.

Pennsylvania’s current cigarette tax places it in the middle of all states and Washington, DC with the 21st highest cigarette tax, and less than neighboring states New Jersey, Maryland and New York. Raising the tax rate by 10 cents will increase Pennsylvania’s ranking only marginally, to 19th place.

Inexplicably, Pennsylvania is also the only state in America that does not tax smokeless tobacco – chewing tobacco, cigars and cigarillos. I have proposed taxing those products as a fair, common-sense way to generate needed revenue.

The cigarette tax was first enacted in Pennsylvania in 1935 and it supplies a substantial source of funding for public services provided by the commonwealth. The tax rate has increased nine times over the past 74 years to provide sufficient funding to the General Fund and programs such as a health insurance plan benefiting Pennsylvania children, a fund that helps reduce medical malpractice costs for healthcare providers and a farmland preservation effort.

The proposed cigarette tax increase – the first in five years – and the first ever tax on smokeless tobacco will benefit Pennsylvania by further reducing tobacco use and funding important programs on which many residents rely.

In the long run, reductions in tobacco use will provide public health benefits that will reduce the cost of health care in the public and private sectors, reduce sick leave usage and lengthen the life spans of many Pennsylvania children and adults.

Thank you for taking the time to share your opinion on this issue."

My Responce:
What programs *directly* related to smoking does the $600,000,000+ annual tax revenue generated by the *direct* taxing of cigarettes support? You have a 75% failure rate on the only one I could find and it doesn't cost NEARLY $600,000,000+ a year to run.

My point is ... Use tax money from the general population to support programs for the general population. Do not single out one group (smokers) to fund projects that are not specifically related to that group (smokers).

So help me god if you tell me the money goes to "Healthcare" assuming that broad definition will be satisfactory; you will have severely insulted my intelligence. Your current logic is like saying you're going to tax black people just for being black; give the money to the Klu Klux Clan; then say the tax is used to support "Diversity Programs". You have no REAL programs in place to reduce the amount of smokers in PA and you use smokers as a piggybank to fund projects that sound vaguely related but aren't related AT ALL.

So here's the deal... I propose you fund a Nicotine Replacement program that subsidizes the cost of Nicotine Patches, etc. and pass a law that requires any Cigarette/Tobacco retailer to carry, stock and prominently display the low-cost subsidized Nicotine Replacement items. Because your current "Give us your money and we'll try to fix you AFTER you get sick if there's any money left over" model is stupid!

Or am I missing a good answer to the question: "What programs *directly* related to smoking does the $600,000,000+ annual tax revenue generated by the *direct* taxing of cigarettes support?"

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