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TWIN FALLS, Idaho and PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- As legislators wrestle with budgets in a difficult economy, two states are reconsidering their cigarette tax and approaching different conclusions; an Idaho lawmaker is preparing a proposal to raise the state's tobacco tax, while a Rhode Island Representatives wants to cut the tax to attract more local smokers.
Rep. Dennis Lake (R-Blackfoot) has written a proposal to increase Idaho's state tobacco tax to $1.25 per pack or $12.50 per carton, according to a Times-News report. Lake, the chairman of the House Revenue and Taxation Committee, stated that the proposal is now in the hands of an American Cancer Society-headed coalition.
"The coalition is still struggling to find the votes to print it," said Lake. "We’ll just see what happens, it’s their call now."
Potential challenges to the bill include legislators' reluctance to increase any taxes during this election year, as well as opposition from small business. Supporters of the bill include the Idaho State Dental Association and the state's public health districts. The same bill came under consideration last year, but did not make it out of committee.
Idaho's tobacco tax is currently the eighth lowest in the U.S. at $.57 per pack. If the bill becomes law, the tax will be the 15th highest in the country.
Meanwhile, a Rhode Island lawmaker wants to cut the state's tobacco tax in order to encourage local smokers to shop at home. Rep. Robert Phillips (D-Dist. 51, Woonsocket) has proposed lowering the $3.46 tax by $1, according to an Associated Press report.
Rhode Island's tobacco tax currently ranks second in the country, something that Phillips believe is driving area smokers to purchase cigarettes in nearby Connecticut and Massachusetts, which offer lower taxes. Phillips introduced the bill last year but it did not reach a vote.
Despite Phillips' efforts, not all Rhode Island lawmakers think the same way; Gov. Lincoln Chafee has proposed increasing the tobacco tax by four cents.