Tobacco tax INCREASE
MCT REGIONAL NEWS
By Mannix Porterfield
The Register-Herald, Beckley, W.Va.
Feb. 18--CHARLESTON -- Delegate Mitch Carmichael has no qualms about hitting smokers with an extra $1 tax per pack, provided the Legislature scraps the remaining 3 percent levy on groceries and cuts the corporate net income tax.
Moreover, the lawmaker's new bill, set to be introduced today in the House of Delegates, would also hit beer, wine and hard liquor with an unspecified higher tax.
Carmichael doesn't want to dedicate the higher tax on tobacco products to cessation and prevention programs, nor to an effort to liberate those hooked on drugs.
"My view on the cigarette tax is it must be revenue neutral," Carmichael, D-Jackson, said Thursday.
"We don't need any more taxes here in West Virginia. We are overtaxed as it is."
Mirroring a bill that was debated in a public hearing this week, the Carmichael proposal would also raise the tax on spit tobacco from 7 percent of the wholesale price to 50 percent.
"We can utilize those funds to eliminate the food tax and additionally reduce the corporate net income tax," he said.
Meanwhile, the Senate Health and Human Resources Committee voted 9-3 to send out its own version of the tax bill that imposes the same rates but calls for a different means of divvying up the proceeds.
A higher tax on cigarettes would jack the per-pack cost to around $6, depending on the brand, and Carmichael sees this as a deterrent that would reduce future health care costs from nicotine-induced illnesses.
"Wouldn't someone much rather have to not incur a tax on food as opposed to a luxury item like tobacco and alcohol?" he asked.
"We think the revenue mechanism should be generated from those sin taxes."
Rather than dedicate proceeds to anti-tobacco efforts and drug treatment programs, Car-michael said the lower business taxes would improve the climate so that more jobs are created.
"I'm not for increasing the tax on cigarettes and funneling it and creating additional new programs," said Carmichael, one of eight Republicans running for governor in the May 14 primary.