HB 537 by Rep. Katrina Jackson would amend the Constitution to raise tobacco taxes and dedicate the funds as by subsequent law. She deferred HB 623, which would do the same except not dedicate anything. She started with an amendment that dedicated revenues specifically to Medicaid and medical education, as well to pay down unfunded accrued liabilities, which was offered by Rep. Chris Broadwater and was adopted without objection.
She briefly described the bill to the House Ways and Means Committee and took technical questions and clarifications. A list of supporters’ and a very lengthy list of opponents’ names were read off, although most declared they didn’t want to speak on the matter.
Interestingly, the American Cancer Society declared itself against the bill, because the amount of increase of 32 cents a pack on cigarettes it deemed insufficient to change behavior. Retailer representatives predictably said business would be hurt, and pointed out outdated information from Jackson. They claimed it would not generate revenues predicted and even put the industry out of business and hurt customers.
Jackson, in closing, expressed disappointment that the ACS would testify against the bill, and claimed the bill would decrease medical costs. She said these revenues also could go to educating health care professionals to fight deleterious effect of smoking.
The bill failed 7-12.