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WDBJ7.com: UPDATED: Virginia lawmaker proposes tobacco tax increase, car tax cut Print

BY  Joe Dashiell

Created:  Tuesday, January 17, 2012 12:37 PM


Proposal Would Raise Cigarette Tax by More Than a Dollar a Pack, Cut Car Tax in Half


Health activists who hope to curb smoking in Virginia have a new strategy, and it involves cutting the car tax. A Delegate from northern Virginia has introduced a bill that would raise the state's cigarette tax by more than $1.00 a pack, and devote most of the proceeds to car tax relief.

Richmonder Jerrell Adkins says his cigarettes are already too expensive, and a $1.15 increase in the state cigarette tax would persuade him to quit. "That's too much to be paying," Adkins told News7. "If they're only four dollars now, four dollars is already too much," he said.

That's exactly what members of the Tobacco Free Alliance are hoping to hear.

Jann Balmer is the chairman of the group's Virginia organization. "Smoking and tobacco affect every organ in your body and what we want is for people to be healthy," she said Tuesday morning.

Arlington Delegate Patrick Hope has introduced legislation that would raise the state tobacco tax to the national average, $1.45 a pack. Some of the money would pay for prevention programs, but most, more than $250 million, would go toward cutting the unpopular car tax.

"If you have a $15,000 car, you're probably writing a tax bill of nearly $200," Hope said after a Richmond news conference. "This would cut it in half. And you have multiple cars. This is real relief for real families."

A lawmaker who represents tobacco country and opposes the legislation says the bill would harm another group of Virginians.

"We've got to protect our tobacco farmers and the ones who've remained in the trade in agriculture in our area," said Senator Bill Stanley, "and so I certainly want to do whatever I can to protect the farmer."

Proposals to raise Virginia's tobacco tax have repeatedly failed in the General Assembly, but supporters are hoping a new approach will give the idea some fresh momentum in 2012.

The Associated Press

A Democratic legislator is proposing a nearly fourfold increase in the state's cigarette tax, a measure that the General Assembly's dominant Republicans have labeled as dead at birth.

A bill by Del. Patrick Hope of Arlington would increase the per-pack tax on cigarettes from 30 cents to $1.45. It would increase the excise tax on other tobacco products from 10 percent of the wholesale price to 50 percent.