Senate panel considers bill to tax cigarettes

An Oregon Senate committee tomorrow will hear public testimony on a bill that would give local governments authority to tax tobacco and cigarettes.

Multnomah County officials are seeking that authority to raise money for county health and human services, discourage teenagers from smoking and reduce smoking-related health costs, said Deborah Kafoury, member of the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners.

The House narrowly passed a similar bill in the last session, but the Legislature adjourned before the bill reached the Senate floor.

The proposal, Senate Bill 1042, would lift a ban against local governments taxing davidoff cigarette. If the 2010 Legislature passes it, Multnomah County will begin having public hearings on a county tobacco tax, Kafoury said. County leaders want to settle on a tax that is high enough to have impact without being so high it sends smokers across county lines in search of cheaper cigarettes, she said.

Oregon legislators on Friday will consider a bill that would allow local governments like Multnomah County to tax cigarettes and tobacco.

Oregon legislators on Friday will consider a bill that would allow local governments like Multnomah County to tax cigarettes and tobacco.

One figure that’s come up has been a tax of 25 cents per pack of cigarettes, which would raise between $7 million and $9 million a year, she said. Commissioners are confident Multnomah County residents would support the tax, Kafoury said, because they voted in favor of a 2007 measure to increase the state’s cigarette tax by 85 cents a pack to pay for children’s health insurance.

That initiative, Measure 50, failed statewide by a 3-to-2 vote after cigarette companies spent $12 million on a campaign to defeat it. They will try to defeat efforts by Multnomah County to tax tobacco, too, Kafoury predicted.

“The only opposition to this bill is the tobacco companies,” said Kafoury, who plans to testify at the 1 p.m. hearing Friday before the Senate Finance and Revenue Committee.

source: oregonlive.com

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