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Florida Legislator Wants $1 Cigarette Tax Increase In Exchange for Lower Driver Fees

| December 19, 2011

To your driving health.

A South Florida lawmaker wants to increase cigarette taxes by $1 a pack and is offering a political sweetener to try to get it passed: Use the money to roll back fees on motorists.

Rep. Jim Waldman, D-Coconut Creek, filed the bill (HB 1049) last week. Lawmakers in 2009 also approved a $1-a-pack increase in cigarette taxes — or a “surcharge” as supporters called it — as they grappled with budget problems.

Waldman said the state has seen decreases in cigarette smoking, and he hopes the additional taxes will further reduce tobacco use by young people.

“This is a health care bill, plain and simple, to stop the youth from smoking,” he said Monday.

With the Republican-dominated Legislature opposed to tax hikes, Waldman said he would offset the higher cigarette surcharges by rolling back a series of unpopular fee increases that lawmakers also approved in 2009. Those fee increases caused motorists to pay more for such things as vehicle registrations and driver’s licenses.

It is too early to know whether Waldman can get lawmakers to go along with his proposal, which he said would bring in roughly $900 million a year in additional cigarette taxes. No Senate version has been filed.

Rep. Steve Precourt, an Orlando Republican who is chairman of the House Finance & Tax Committee, said he had not seen Waldman’s bill. But more broadly, he said lawmakers don’t want to raise taxes and fees this year.

Florida collects $1.34 in taxes on a standard pack of cigarettes, with $1 of that coming from the 2009 surcharge. Money from that surcharge goes into a trust fund to help pay for health-care services.

Tobacco-related issues typically touch off lobbying fights in the Legislature. David Sutton, a spokesman for Philip Morris USA, said in an e-mail that the tobacco company opposes Waldman’s proposal.

Sutton offered several reasons for opposing taxes that are “unfair to adult tobacco consumers.”

He said, in part, that higher taxes can encourage the use of contraband tobacco, are costly to retailers and do little to solve systemic state budget problems.

But Brenda Olsen, an American Lung Association official who has long worked on anti-tobacco issues in Florida, said higher cigarette taxes can help prevent youths from starting to smoke, as they are more “price sensitive” than adults. With the economy struggling, she said higher costs also could help spur some current smokers to quit.

–Jim Saunders, News Service of Florida

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11 Responses for “Florida Legislator Wants $1 Cigarette Tax Increase In Exchange for Lower Driver Fees”

  1. Dede Siebenaler via Facebook says:

    Want, want, want. Money, money, money!

  2. Rob Wilhite via Facebook says:

    Ok finer leave the smokers alone and that’s it

  3. Jose Pinho via Facebook says:

    How about a stiffer fine on those without car insurance? That may lower our car insurance which goes along ways towards saving dollars.

  4. Gia says:

    $1 is not enough, should be at least $2

  5. John Boy says:

    I can drive to Georgia already and save $20. per carton, keep these idiots in office and the State will loose more and more money. It’s past time to vote the criminals out of office. 2 exits past the JIA and fuck the State of Florida. The resulting loss of revenue will clearly result in taxing on other things being increased. When was the last time the State of Florida has actually saved you one penny?

  6. willy574 says:

    For once I would like to see our goverment stop picking on smokers! Don’t tell me they all don’t sit every evening and enjoy a cigar. As to the health care issue, I dont buy that either! What they should do is tax the hell out of junk food, seems to me all these fat people are the ones soaking up the health care costs! Why is it that the price of one pack of smokes can they purchase enough junk food to cover a weeks worth of calories for the normal person. I bet when the rest of the world looks at our country, they don’t see the smokers, they see all the fat people. I say add multiple surcharges to all the twinkies and ho-ho’s and leave us smokers alone!

  7. Justin says:

    Why not rasie it up to 10 dollers poeple will still by them.

  8. palmcoaster says:

    @willy574 your post is very sadly funny!! I can see all the smokers here “fuming bad” over this proposal. John Boy driving to GA to save $20 a pack? Why don’t you start growing your own tobacco plant instead…could be I heard is not hard to grow. Maybe will start seeing again smokers rolling their own? I do not agree with any further taxing smokers! Oh my, they will be driving around more pissed off and we don’t need that. Now if the want to increase taxes all across across the board including liquor and junk food …maybe I will not oppose it. As far is my concern I don’t mind at all leaving all smokers alone, you can have it, as sure do not expose myself to second hand …..puffing. At well over 60 can’t afford the risk.

  9. Doug Chozianin says:

    Why not a $100 tax per pack?

  10. Like it or not I sell cigarettes. As a retailer this would possibly be the final nail in our coffin. Not because people quit but because we are near the Georgia border. We have always lost gas sales, then cigarettes due to taxes. Why not tax beer & soda to just end my misery.

  11. Gia says:

    This is not enough, $4 would be just right

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