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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Tobacco Tax Increase Dies In The House

The Capitol dome in Helena, MT.
William Marcus
Montana Public Radio
Montana Capitol dome, Helena.

An attempt to revive a substantial increase in the tobacco tax failed in the Montana House of Representatives.

Representative Kerry White said this tax increase, which included a $1.50-tax-per-pack increase for cigarettes just further creates a black market for cigarettes.

"And I will say, in my mind, a tobacco tax increase affects the low income the greatest in an adverse way," White said.

That may be true, says Representative Jim Hamilton:

"And I had that heartburn myself until I began to consider that a much bigger burden on low income folks is health costs. That is a huge regressive burden which we can improve if we can find a way to reduce smoking and tobacco use."

The Republican-controlled House Taxation Committee on a party line vote attached a “do not pass” recommendation on Senate Bill 354. That meant it would die unless at least 60 members of the 100 Representatives voted to overturn that decision. The effort failed on a 42-to-58 vote.

The estimated $70 million a year anticipated from the tax increase would have gone to pay for a raise for nursing home workers and to help balance the state budget.

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