Tobacco Tax Increase Dies In The House

Apr 11, 2017

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.