South Carolina's lowest-in-the-nation cigarette tax looks like it will be going 50 cents higher. A Senate committee approved the increase, and the bill will now be debated by the full Senate, where it could be approved if it isn't derailed by upcoming budget debates.
The State newspaper writes:
“The argument is not raising the cigarette tax; the argument is how to spend it,” said Robbie Kerr of the Covering Carolina Coalition, a group of anti-smoking and health care advocates pushing for the insurance tax credit plan.
Democrats said the tax credits — a minimum of $475 — would do little to make a $4,000 to $5,000 annual health insurance plan affordable. Under the plan, only those earning $20,800 or less — twice the federal poverty level — were eligible for the tax credits and only if they had been uninsured for a year or longer.
The tax also is indexed for health care inflation, which means the tax would increase every year.
The debate seems to be mirrored in comments made by readers of The Post and Courier. User "ColdBeer" writes:
As a smoker, I have no problem with higher taxes on cigarettes. I hope to quit soon anyway and higher taxes just might be a good incentive.
I do have a problem with the tax revenue going to programs limited to "low income families". The amount of waste, fraud and abuse in our social programs is astronomically high and I hate to see more tax money used to support those programs. If the waste, fraud and abuse were eliminated from those programs, they would not need additional funding and then the tax money could be spent on schools, roads and salaries for our teachers, firemen and policemen.
I didn’t go to school, work hard and earn a good living so that I could support high school drop outs and drug addicts. I have no problem supporting those that need support due to no fault of their own (disabled and such), but I don’t want to support freeloaders or their families.
The plan would give Medicaid and estimated $511 million dollars a year. The move will tie us with Idaho for rank 39 (57 cents a pack).