ATLANTA & LINCOLN, Neb. — Lawmakers in both Georgia and Nebraska are mulling cigarette excise tax increases to fund health-care in the states. For Georgia, the proposed increase would raise the state tax 84% from 37 cents to 68 cents per pack, while Nebraska is looking at a whopping 211% increase to $1.99 per pack.
Nebraska Sen. Mike Gloor proposed the increase in his state, according to a report in the Lincoln Journal Star. The State Legislature’s Revenue Committee discussed his bill (LB436) Friday. It would use the extra money to maintain funding for Medicaid provider rates and pay for health, behavioral and aging services, among other things.
“We need to understand that smoking-related disease and illness is the No. 1 public health problem and in this country,” Gloor said, according to the report.
Meanwhile, the Georgia proposal would raise that state’s cigarette tax from the lowest in the Southeast to among the highest, according to a report in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“Tobacco has always been the whipping boy when it comes to taxes,” Thomas Patton, owner of the Ash Cigar Co. in Buckhead, told the newspaper. “I’m not surprised that they want to do this, but it’s not right.”
The state’s cigarette tax has stood at 37 cents since 2003, when the Legislature voted to raise it from 12 cents. In January, the Special Council on Tax Reform and Fairness for Georgians released a set of proposals to remake the state’s tax code, including a jump in the cigarette tax. The council proposed a 31-cent-per-pack increase, which it said would generate an additional $114 million in tax revenue.
Henry Colley of Augusta, vice president of Sprint Food Stores, who operates 11 stores in eastern Georgia, said that any cigarette tax increase is going to cut into his business.
“About 40% of our business comes from cigarette sales,” he said. “If this is passed, it’ll drive our customers over the state line to South Carolina. If we lose this business, we won’t make payroll. We’ll have to have layoffs.”
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