As fiscal conservatives, we’re hesitant to support tax increases, but we find the proposed tobacco tax increases to be policy we can support.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s proposed increase of 45 cents per pack of cigarettes significantly trails what anti-tobacco supporters are requesting. They believe the state’s current 55 cents per pack tax rate is a full $1 lower than the national average.
We don’t want to say how much the tax should be increased. We’ll leave that to legislators and their staffs, who need to determine what makes the most sense in terms of creating revenue and promoting better health choices.
Our reasons for supporting this tax increase over other proposed tax hikes revolves around several factors.
First, the taxes imposed on tobacco products in West Virginia are significantly less than other states. In a time in which the state’s budget is full of revenue holes, increasing a “sin” tax makes sense when the current tax is insufficient.
Also, the lower taxes inadvertently encourage tobacco use by keeping the products more affordable. That’s great for the tobacco industry, but not taxpayers who are sometimes stuck paying the medical bills that long-time tobacco use tends to promote.
The final reason for supporting the tax increase is that the majority of the money will be used to help cover projected increases in PEIA insurance premiums for state workers, including public school teachers.
At a time when education has never been more important in promoting a better West Virginia, the PEIA increase is yet another reason to drive some of the better educators to other states or careers…