Lawmakers Consider 1-Cent Increase In Cigarette Tax
Posted August 30, 2002 10:57 a.m. EDT
RALEIGH, N.C. — State lawmakers continue to struggle with a state budget that is two months overdue and $2 billion in the red. Increasing cigarette taxes could be a quick fix, but the proposal may not pass.
Tobacco has long been the mainstay to North Carolina's economy. To farmers, it's about the only profitable crop around. To some North Carolina lawmakers, increasing the cigarette tax is like a slap in the face to farmers, the cigarette industry, and the smokers.
"I personally do not believe this is the time to do that. That might come in the future. I don't believe now is the right time to do it," said Sen. Charlie Albertson, D-Duplin County.
"It is a legal product. I don't think it is right to tax things out of existence because some blue-nose nanny wants to correct our habit," said Sen. Ham Horton, R-Winston-Salem.
Economists say an 1-cent increase in North Carolina's cigarette tax would raise $7 million. Several lawmakers produced bills to raise enough in cigarette taxes to plug North Carolina's revenue shortfall, but those proposals went up smoke.
"Advocates of raising the tax came as close as they could without quite having the majority. That is to say there was a lot of talk in the House and the Senate and the majority is not there," said Rep. Paul Luebke, D-Durham County.
For North Carolina, the tax is 5 cents a pack, which is the third lowest in the nation. Six states, including New York, charge more than a tax of $1 per pack.