Taxing ‘sin’ could be

Published 11:37 am Saturday, March 28, 2009

By Staff
taxing on some residents
When Gov. Beverly Perdue released her budget proposal to the N.C. General Assembly earlier this month, many lawmakers called it a sin.
Perdue’s proposal calls for increasing the state’s cigarette tax from 35 cents a pack to $1.35 and implenting a 5 percent surcharge tax on alcohol.
The cigarette-tax increase comes on top of a recent 62 cent increase in the federal tax on cigarettes.
The tax hikes would raise $508 million for the state budget and to help struggling families, Perdue contends.
Problem is, many families in North Carolina make a living off the tobacco industry.
At Thursday night’s Down East Republicans’ meeting, FreedomWorks legislative lobbyist Kathy Hartkopf spoke to this dilemma.
According to Hartkopf, more than 250,000 people in the state have tobacco-related jobs. The state ranks first in the nation in the production of tobacco, with an annual farm income of $587 million in 2007, according to the N.C. Department of Agriculture &Consumer Services.
So, in theory, the lofty $1 tax increase on a pack of smokes would hurt families the governor said she is trying to help by scaring away business from big-time tobacco makers in the state like R.J. Reynolds, which employ many family men and women.
Perdue said her ultimate goal is to create more jobs in the state, but many in the tobacco industry could be lost if the cigarette tax increases.
N.C. House Minority Leader Paul Stam, R-Wake, among other Republican lawmakers, said the increases in “sin taxes” would hurt the state’s economy in the long run. Especially since the state’s economic impact from tobacco is more than $7 billion a year, said the NCDA&CS.
Perdue seems to think the tax hikes will only affect a small minority of “sinners.”
In truth, more than a quarter of the state’s residents smoke on a regular basis, according to the most recent Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey by the Tobacco Prevention Control Branch with the N.C. State Center for Health Statistics.
The survey found 28 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds in the state smoke.
So, it seems Perdue’s solution is for every avid smoker to just up and quit or pay the price.
And what a price!
Most cigarette packs are expected to cost more than $6 if the tax increase passes the state’s House and Senate.
Our best suggestion to all the “Joe Schmos” out there who light up now and then: quit or fork over almost an hour’s pay for a pack of smokes.