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States Look to Tobacco Tax for Budget Holes

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To keep the state’s landmark universal health coverage plan afloat, Massachusetts lawmakers are looking to tap an increasingly popular source of financing for health-related initiatives: tobacco taxes.Cheap Cigarettes Online If the state raises its tax by as much as $1 a pack, it will join New York — and possibly a number of other states — in enacting significant increases this year. The speaker of the Massachusetts House, Salvatore F. DiMasi, a Democrat, pushed the increase, to $2.51, through the chamber this month, and the State Senate president, Therese Murray, and Gov. Deval Patrick, also Democrats, have signaled support. Cheap Cigarettes sale The $175 million in projected revenue would be used to shore up the state’s year-old mandatory health insurance plan. State officials say the plan, which is the first to require that individuals have coverage, is over budget because enrollment has been higher than expected for state-subsidized insurance policies offered to low- and middle-income workers. Newport Cigarettes The state subsidies were budgeted at $472 million for the first year but actually cost $625 million. Only months ago, Mr. Patrick proposed spending $869 million for the coming year, but his aides already acknowledge that will not be enough. The state recently agreed to increase its payments to insurers by 9.4 percent. More costs are being passed along to policyholders in the form of higher premiums and co-payments.Marlboro Cigarettes “Massachusetts has a huge stake in the health reform effort, and its success is important to the leadership here,” said David E. Newman, a consultant to a coalition of health groups known as Tobacco Free Mass. “That’s part of the reason that both the speaker and the Senate president are working to tie this increase directly to that reform.”555 Cigarettes Governors and legislators in other states are making similar pushes. Bills to raise tobacco taxes have been active in 22 state legislatures in 2008, according to the Tobacco Merchants Association, a trade group. That follows a year in which 11 states enacted increases, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.Cigarettes Cheap Supporters emphasize that in addition to providing revenue, increases in tobacco taxes are proven to drive down smoking rates, particularly among youths who may find that they cannot afford to start. In the year after a $1-a-pack increase took effect in Iowa in March 2007, the state’s cigarette sales dropped by 36 percent, according to state revenue figures.Camel Cigarettes The tobacco industry counters that smokers already bear an unfair tax burden and that increases encourage cross-border purchases and bootlegging. Cigarette manufacturers also argue that tobacco taxes make for an unstable revenue source because of declining sales. An analysis of recent tobacco tax increases conducted by Altria, the parent company of Philip Morris USA Inc., concluded that three-fourths of them had raised less money than projected.Pall Mall Cigarettes

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