BALLOT INITIATIVES: Reiner Backs Tobacco Tax For Early Childhood
"[T]he well-known actor and director" Rob Reiner came to Sacramento Tuesday to promote a proposed "November ballot initiative that would increase the state's tobacco taxes by 50 cents per pack and use the estimated $700 million a year to expand early childhood development programs." Reiner, who is "in the middle of a national campaign to promote the development and nurturing of very young children," has been "pushing hard to qualify the" initiative, the Sacramento Bee reports. Reiner, who chairs California Children and Families first, said that in order to "have a real impact on crime, teen pregnancy, drug abuse, child abuse and welfare dependency, we must invest in our children from the prenatal period through age 5." Noting "some states that already have similar programs providing support and education for very young children and their parents ... have had major drops in such social problems as child abuse," he said, "We're fools, FOOLS if we don't start going down this path."
Unfair To Smokers?
Critics of the initiative "say the plan is badly flawed, that it would unfairly penalize a relatively few smoking Californians in an effort to improve the lives of the many," the Bee reports. They claim such a tax increase "would certainly slash sales of cigarettes and snuff out much of the new tax money." David Doerr of the California Taxpayers Association said, "It's not a tax on tobacco companies. It's a tax on a lot of California individuals, a number of whom don't have very high incomes." In response, Reiner said the Legislature probably would not approve "spending out of general tax revenues." Presently, the initiative has the support of state Senate President Pro Tem John Burton (D), Assembly Speaker-elect Antonio Villaraigosa (D) and Sacramento Mayor Joe Serna Jr. (Matthews, 2/11).