Archive for Friday, December 14, 2007

Cigarette tax would cover health care reform, but fate uncertain

December 14, 2007

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— A proposed 50-cent per pack increase in the state cigarette tax easily would cover the cost of health care reforms before the Legislature, budget experts said Thursday.

But whether lawmakers returning to session in January can muster the will to increase taxes in an election year remains to be seen.

Opinions on that question varied among members of the House-Senate Health Policy Oversight Committee.

"It's hard to see the House passing a tax increase in an election year," said state Rep. Jeff Colyer, R-Overland Park.

But state Sen. Jim Barnett, R-Emporia, said, "That's unknown."

Barnett said a tax increase would have a better chance of being approved if the increase went toward reducing the cost of health care through funding prevention programs and promoting personal responsibility.

"Are we going to continue to grow a system that is not performing well now, or are we going to use those dollars to actually transform the system and get to some of those root causes," of increasing health care costs, Barnett said.

Alan Conroy, director of the Kansas Legislative Research Department, said the proposed 50-cent per pack increase in the state cigarette tax would produce $60 million to $65 million for each of the next three fiscal years.

The cost to enact the health reforms is estimated at $30 million, $40.6 million and $47.1 million for each of the next three fiscal years, he said.

Without a tax increase, Conroy said there is no extra revenue currently in budget revenue projections to pay for the health care recommendations.

The package of 21 reforms was put together by the Kansas Health Policy Authority.

The proposal includes a statewide ban on smoking in public places, promoting healthy foods and physical activity in schools, aggressive enrollment of eligible children into Medicaid and HealthWave, and expansion of those taxpayer-funded programs to cover more people.

Approximately 300,000 Kansans, or 11 percent of the state's population, don't have health insurance. Most of those who are uncovered can't afford private insurance, KHPA officials said.

The cost of health care has far outstripped inflation and increases in average pay, according to the KHPA.

Marcia Nielsen, executive director of the KHPA, said the reforms are aimed at helping prevent chronic diseases, reducing the cost of health care, and trying to get people to take more responsibility for their health needs.

"We believe that all three priorities matter and they ought to be addressed together," she said.

State Sen. Roger Reitz, R-Manhattan, praised the proposals but was pessimistic about whether they would survive the political process.

"The Legislature is not going to fund it," Reitz said.

But House Speaker Melvin Neufeld, R-Ingalls, predicted that when the 2008 session ended, "the bulk" of the reforms would gain approval.

Comments

SettingTheRecordStraight 7 years, 4 months ago

"Cigarette tax would cover health care reform"

A more fitting headline would be, "Cigarette tax increase would take money from one class of citizens for redistibution to another"

Confrontation 7 years, 4 months ago

Fine with me. Take money from the addicts and give it to those in need. Good idea.

Kat Christian 7 years, 4 months ago

I think all class of people are smokers - not just the lower class. Pleezzzzz! What gets me is if they prehibit smoking in public places that may mean more smokers may quit and there goes their proposed 60 million in revenue. Doesn't make much sense to me.

bd 7 years, 4 months ago

TAX'EM , make it an even $1, or better still-lets just outlaw the stuff!

bd. (ex-smoker)

Erin Parmelee 7 years, 4 months ago

sunshine_noise (Anonymous) says:

I think all class of people are smokers - not just the lower class. Pleezzzzz! What gets me is if they prehibit smoking in public places that may mean more smokers may quit and there goes their proposed 60 million in revenue. Doesn't make much sense to me.

Well, it makes sense if the end goal is to reduce smoking. I can stand behind that. Nasty habit.

leapinlemur 7 years, 4 months ago

Excessive taxation or prohibition will lead to, well, Prohibition-style bootlegging and increases in crime, further overcrowding of prisons, etc. I thought we learned that lesson already. Nicotine is often considered more addictive than crack or heroin, so it is reasonable to assume that the hard-core addicts will not simply give up the habit if they can find another market for it.

Tobacco and other vices should be taxed to some degree, but how many times are they going to bump up the taxes to pay for health care. Wasn't the last increase supposed to pay for associated health costs? And the one before that?

And what about the 1998 State Attorneys General's settlement with Big Tobacco. Wasn't THAT money supposed to cover states' tobacco-related health care expenses too? Oh yeah, that's right -- they spent that on something else too despite their stated uses for the money during the suit itself (health care and smoking prevention programs).

If states are going to keep doing this, they should just cut out the middle man and get into the tobacco business themselves. They already make more off of every pack sold than the tobacco company does.

So... We need more money? I can't think of a better tax to increase than gasoline, just for private citizens to keep business transportation costs from getting out of hand. I can't think of a habit nastier than driving inefficient SUVs and pick-ups (unless you're one of the few that actually need them to make a living). Maybe we should have an additional tax on those too.

It makes sense if the end goal is to reduce foreign dependence on oil and unnecessary emissions (whether or not you think the planet is warming).

whatatown 7 years, 4 months ago

No No NO. Tax on cigerattes is already ridiculously high, and the last raise had very little affect on the amount of people smoking. As for the argument that smokers will use the health care system more, so freakin' what! I would like to say that I do not have children, nor do I plan to. I pay for your snot-nose brats schooling and have no say in the matter, so when I am old you can return the favor by getting me a lung transplant. Tax your wombs, not my cigeratte.

smokersarehumans2 7 years, 4 months ago

Why do some people treat smokers like 3rd or 4th class citizens? I think the ones that do treat smokers badly have issues of their own they need to work out!

KsTwister 7 years, 4 months ago

Want to know how many military guys used to be non smokers? Sometimes you let people handle their own business.

Anyway everyone knows that the insurance companies, corrupt government, the greedy profiteers in the manufacturing sector who go elsewhere for child labor/ cheap wages will never allow the America which we grew up with to be great again if they get their way. By placing the entire burden on the small percentage of citizens just because they have a habit will give them the excuse to come back to John Q. Public to say "WE need more money".

beatrice 7 years, 4 months ago

Without question, smoking sucks. How many smokers do you know who haven't said at some point that they want to quit? None, because they all know it is a bad addiction. And it really sucks when non-smokers have to deal with second-hand smoke. I think few, rational people will argue these points.

However, people shouldn't be excessively taxed for their bad habits. If this is to be the case, then there also has to be a 50 cent tax on Big Macs, 75 cents on each bottle of beer, $1.00 on chocolate bars, ...

ImTooOldForThis 7 years, 4 months ago

you have a point beatrice. lets tax the fat (diabetes, heart disease, gastric bypass), the drunk (you name it), the depressed (because hey lets face it all those housewives on the latest fukitol drug are probably going to have some sort of liver problem in the future), or anyone with a driver's license for that matter.

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