Smoke Up — Louisiana Democrats Need The Money To Fund Big Government

Louisiana Democrats continue their love affair with raising tobacco taxes. There are five bills to raise or allow local governments to raise tobacco taxes, four of which have been filed by Democrat legislators.

Here are the bills:

  • HB 77 by State Rep. Harold Ritchie (D-Bogalusa) is a constitutional amendment to raise cigarette taxes from $0.36 per pack to $1.54 per pack.
  • HB 119 which is also by Ritchie is the same as his constitutional amendment, except it’s just a law and only needs passage by a majority vote and to be signed by the governor.
  • HB 148 by State Rep. Austin Badon (D-New Orleans) raises cigarette taxes from $0.36 per pack to $1.41 per pack, and doubles the wholesale tax on cigars, smoking tobacco, and smokeless tobacco. It creates the “Louisiana Healthy Living Fund” and dedicates 70% of the money for the universities and the remaining 30% for stop smoking programs.
  • HB 187 by State Rep. Helena Moreno (D-New Orleans) allows parish governments to levy taxes on tobacco products with their boundaries.
  • HB 224 by State Rep. Frank Hoffman (R-West Monroe) raises cigarette taxes from $0.36 per pack to $1.08 per pack. It should be noted that Hoffman has also filed anti-smoking legislation this session so his motivations are likely more nanny statist than just bloating state government.

The attempt to generate revenue by using taxing a small minority of Louisianians to pay for it is cowardly. The most recent estimates are that only 24% of Louisianians smoke. This is the latest example of “don’t tax me, don’t tax him, tax the man behind the tree.” This is Huey Long style populism/socialism updated for the 21st century.

For all the complaining that Louisiana’s liberals have done about the repeal of the Stelly tax increase, notice the Louisiana Democrat Party hasn’t filed a bill to bring back Stelly or otherwise raise income tax rates. There also aren’t any bills to raise the state sales tax. No bills have been filed to lower the homestead exemption. Instead, members of the Louisiana Democrat Party have filed bills to attack the personal exemptions of wealthier taxpayers.

Cigarette tax increases, if they’re being used to fund big government, are terrible policy. If cigarette taxes go up, people quit smoking. If people quit smoking, then the revenue from the increased tobacco taxes don’t materialize. Since Austin Badon’s proposal uses tobacco taxes to fund higher education, will the Board of Regents and the universities start campaigns to encourage Louisianians to start smoking?

This is yet another example of the fact that the Louisiana Democrat Party is not serious about governing. If they wanted to create a serious revenue source to pay for their big government, they would propose raising the state income tax or the state sales tax. Come on guys, I dare you to propose that in an election year.



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