Cigarette Tax Hike Snuffed Out

One of Governor Mitch Daniel’s top legislative priorities suffered a setback Tuesday in the Indiana House of Representatives.

A proposal to hike the cigarette tax by a quarter a pack was soundly defeated in bi-partisan fashion.

The vote was 44-in favor, and 52-against…
With only 19-Republicans voting for the program.

Lawmakers killed two birds with one stone, by voting down the package.

They rejected the idea of raising the cigarette tax,
And using the proceeds to provide health care coverage
For the uninsured.

“The state could have picked up some of the ones we cover now, the patients that we cover now,” said Andre Waddell with St. Joseph Regional Medical Center. “We could have went out and covered even more individuals.”

The medical center runs three Healthy Family Centers in St. Joseph County.

Together, they serve up to eight-thousand uninsured patients a year.

While the clinic is willing to do it’s part,
Some here were more than anxious to see the state do more.

According to Waddell, “the fact we have almost a million uninsured in the state of Indiana, there's a lot more that we can still do.”

The bill’s defeat was also disappointing for those who say cigarette tax increases, reduce smoking.

According to Marilyn Eber of Healthy Communities, “in 2002,
Indiana did raise the tax 40-cents. As a result of that there was an 18-percent decline in the amount of smoking.”

Indiana Representative Craig Fry of Mishawaka said he believes a cigarette tax increase should be part of any effort to cover the uninsured…
Although he feels it needs to be one of many sources of funding.

Fry voted no on Tuesday, because he felt the cigarette tax wasn’t a stable enough source of revenue.

“Tobacco taxes are not the best way to fund the health insurance program. You have health care costs going up, and revenues from cigarette taxes going down.”

The entire Legislative delegation from St. Joseph County voted against the bill. The list included Rep. Jackie Walorski, a Republican from Lakeville, Rep. Ryan Dvorak, a Democrat from South Bend, and Rep. David Niezgodski, a Democrat from South Bend.

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