Thursday, January 29, 2009

Hey, It's Because We're Pro-Life

Virginia newspapers almost certainly have at least one standing head they use on General Assembly stories. It would read something like this:

(Anything good for anybody) "snuffed out in House subcommittee." You fill in the parenthetical part.

The latest: Gov. Tim Kaine's proposed 60 cents a pack cigarette tax, which would pay for some of the $400 million being cut from Medicaid. Virginia is $2.9 billion short of funds overall and needs to make that up somewhere. The cigarette tax wouldn't--by a lot--compensate for all that shortfall (we're only talking $150 million here), but it would certainly help.

What better to tax than something that kills 400,000 Americans a year, blisters business bottom lines, increases insurance costs and rates, fills up hospitals, kills those who breathe smoke second-hand, fills our streets with smokers' gauntlets that we must walk through (covering our faces) and is a nasty, smelly, gross addiction?

Cigarette industry lobbyists (and you can count convenience stores as a new cigarette industry wing) say the tax would create a hardship. A Reynolds Tobacco lobbyist is quoted in today's paper as saying the proposed tax would speed up the reduction in tobacco use. Well, yeah. That's the point, dummkopf.

The current tax is 30 cents, way, way up from a few years ago when it was just 4 cents a pack, second only to Kentucky from the bottom nationally. State taxes today range from 7 cents in South Carolina to $2.57.5 cents in New Jersey. Nine states charge more than $2 a pack and 26 charge $1 or more. Virginia is one of six states that allow counties to levy taxes (between 2 and 15 cents a pack) and you have to wonder where that came from, since Republicans have been blocking cigarette taxes for lo these many years. The federal tax is 39 cents a pack (and the Obama administration wants to dramatically increase that).

So here's the political equation:

Republicans--pro tobacco, pro guns, pro death penalty, pro war and--get this--pro life.

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