Democrats To Host Own Public Session On Tobacco Tax

Democrats in Boise are trying to light a fire under state revenue. They say raising the tobacco tax in the state from 57 cents to a $1.25 is something the state drastically needs.

“It would help on the $50 million in cuts to state education for the third year in a row,” Rep. Elaine Smith, D-Pocatello, said.

Democrats are hosting a public information session at 4:30 p.m. Monday, and Smith said republican resistance to having a hearing is a mistake.

“There is a tobacco coalition that has been pushing this and that’s why I think it’s important to have a public hearing so that we can hear from all sides of the public on this issue,” Smith said.

Smith said her constituents are in favor of the tax, but Rep. Erik Simpson, R-Idaho Falls, said his voters gave him a clear mandate.

“And that was that the state government needs to live within its means, just like they are. And I’m proud to say that we in the statehouse are living within our means,” Simpson said.

But Simpson has his own ideas for revenue. A bill that will be heard in the senate this week would give sales tax rebates for wind projects, and Simpson thinks the state does not need to give wind companies more incentives to be here. Not passing the bill would save Idaho a lot of money, he said.

“It would save the state of Idaho tens of millions of dollars in this next year. That is tens of millions of dollars that could fund cuts to education, medicaid. And wind energy developers are still going to do business in Idaho,” Simpson said.

Still, Smith said, giving a public hearing to the tobacco tax needs to happen.

“Not being allowed a hearing on certain issues, I think is detrimental to the public,” Smith said.

Smith said the increase would put Idaho on the same level as its neighboring states. Montana’s tobacco tax is $1.70, Wyoming’s is 60 cents and Washington has a $3.02 tax.


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