State Should Not Use Cigarette Tax To Reduce Budget Deficit, Editorials State
Two recent editorials criticize a proposal by Assembly Speaker Herb Wesson (D-Culver City) that would increase the state's cigarette tax from 87 cents to $3 per pack in order to raise $1.7 billion and help offset a $23.6 billion budget deficit for fiscal year 2002-2003. Although the Assembly failed to pass the bill earlier this month, it may be reconsidered during subsequent budget debates. The following is a summary of the editorials:
San Francisco Chronicle: Lawmakers should "discard the notion" that a cigarette tax is the best way to reduce the budget deficit, a San Francisco Chronicle editorial states. If legislators wanted to help smokers, they would not be cutting anti-smoking education programs by 45% next year or using the state's share of the national tobacco settlement to pay for general government operations, the Chronicle contends. Pointing out that smokers "typically ... are in low-income brackets," the editorial concludes, "When it comes to smokers ... state officials see only a one-way street with the dollars flowing to Sacramento," adding, "There must be a better way ... to avoid the onus of taxing better-off Californians" (San Francisco Chronicle, 8/16).
- Ventura County Star: While the motives behind the proposed cigarette tax are "laudable," the tax should not be used to pay for general government expenses, a Ventura County Star editorial states. Although a tax would reduce the number of people who buy cigarettes in the state, some smokers would purchase cigarettes on the Internet, out of state or on the black market. In order to truly reduce smoking rates, additional cigarette tax revenues must be used to fund smoking-cessation and education programs, the editorial states. The Star concludes, "Bailing out the state's revenue shortfall by increasing the state's tax on cigarettes ... might raise needed money, but it would likely give smokers more of an incentive to circumvent the tax ... rather than quit" (Ventura County Star, 8/14).