Florida's $2.3 billion deficit - increase tax on cigarettes???

January 3, 2009 - One option is to increase tax on cigarettes to close Florida's $2.3 billion deficit. A special session of the legislators will get underway Monday, 1/5/2009 to discuss options to resolve the deficit. It seems that Governor Charlie Crist, House Speaker Ray Sansom and Senate President Jeff Atwater favor raiding the Lawson Chiles Endowment Fund that pays for health programs for children and the elderly. The 3-government leaders decided to carve up the fund despite Christ saying earlier that the state's poor, sick and elderly will be spared cuts.

State Represenative Jim Waldman who introduced a special $1-per-pack in additional taxes on cigarettes said the tax would raise $700 million, half of which would go toward cutting the deficit, the other half for medical research on smoking related and other diseases. At present the tax is 34-cents per pack (now 4th lowest in nation) would be raised to $1.34 - a move that could raise about $1 billion and place Florida more in line with the average $1.12 levy among states nationally.
It would be the first time that lawmakers increased Florida's cigarette tax in almost two decades.

The increase in the tobacco tax would nearly save 100,000 Floridians from smoking-related deaths, help 123,600 adults quit smoking and prevent 209,000 youth from ever starting. Florida’s Medicaid program incurs an estimated $1.25 billion in costs due to smoking per year. All these positives would improve the state's fiscal health.

References: Holy Smokes - We Think: Tallahassee love its cigarettes more than citizen's health, Orlando Sentinel, 1/3/2009; Proposal To Up Cigarette Tax Draws Cheers, Jeers by JIM KONKOLY, Highlands Today, 1/2/2009.

Related news brief: States Need Quick Influx of Revenue – Think Tobacco Tax..