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Sun Gazette: Del. Hope Tries New Tack in Push to Increase Cigarette Taxes Print


Created:  Wednesday, January 18, 2012  8:07AM


Del. Patrick Hope hopes a new tack will help convince Republican lawmakers in the General Assembly to support his proposal to increase Virginia's cigarette tax.

Hope (D-47th) is patroning legislation that would use more than 90 percent of the additional funds that would be collected – estimated at $265 million annually – to provide funding to localities to augment existing tax relief on personal vehicles.

Last year, Hope's efforts to increase the cigarette tax were dashed in the tax-averse House of Delegates. This time around, he hopes that tying an increase in one tax to help offset another might win support.

"What has stood in our way in the past has been a firm opposition to any tax increase of any kind," Hope said in a Jan. 17 statement announcing his measure.

The legislation, if adopted, would raise the state excise tax on cigarettes from the existing 30 cents per pack to the national average of $1.45, and increase taxes on other tobacco products.

Of the funds brought in, 8 percent would support state efforts to stop people from starting smoking, and help those who do smoke kick the habit. The remainder of the funds would go for car-tax relief.

"Not only will we be able to provide significant tax relief to working, middle-class families, it will save countless lives and reduce overall health-care costs," Hope said in his statement.

The measure was sent to the House Committee on Finance for consideration.

Virginia currently ranks 49th among states, behind only Missouri, in its excise tax on cigarette packs, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. In contrast, smokers in New York pay New York state $4.35 per pack in state taxes, while those purchasing their cigarettes in New York City pay an additional $1.50 in local taxes per pack.

The federal government imposes a tax of just over $1 per pack on all purchases.