Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Senate Republican on Raising the Tobacco Tax on Thursday (UPDATE)

After clearing the first huddle in the state House without a vote to spare, the bill to raise taxes on tobacco to fund a health care package is heading for a vote in the state Senate on Thursday. The bill, HB1204, came out of the Senate Revenue and Taxation with the minimum five votes needed to pass.

The question remains as to whether the bill can gather 27 out of 35 votes needed to send it to the governor’s office. John Brummett said on his blog today that the votes appear to be there and even Sen. Gilbert Baker may be considering voting for the bill. I asked Sen. Gilbert about Brummett’s claim and he assured me that he is a “firm no” on the bill. I also was able to confirm with Senators Johnny Key, Sharon Trusty, and Denny Altes that they all oppose the tax increase. Sen. Cecile Bledsoe confirmed that she will vote for the tax increase.

This leaves three Republicans as undecided or unconfirmed, Sen. Ruth Whitaker, Bill Pritchard, and Kim Hendren. Sen. Whitaker has not gone on the record against the tax increase but her record would indicate she would likely oppose the measure. Sen. Pritchard said at a forum in northwest Arkansas this weekend that he is still undecided. Independently minded Sen. Hendren originally opposed the increase but most recently has said since he is leaning toward supporting the measure. With at least one Democrat, Sen. Terry Smith, already opposing the increase, all three Republican could defeat the bill by voting no only if one additional Democrat also votes no.

Here is the contact information for the undecided or unconfirmed Senate Republicans:

Sen. Ruth Whitaker
(Likely to vote no but unconfirmed)
(Final Result - Voted Against the Bill.)

Sen. Bill Pritchard
(Confirmed Undecided)
(Final Result - Voted Against the Bill.)

Sen. Kim Hendren
(Leaning Yes)
(Final Result - Voted For the Bill.)
UPDATE – According to Roby Brock, there are two Democrats planning to vote no, Senators Terry Smith and Jerry Taylor. This means if Sen. Bledsoe is the only yes Republican, this tax increase will not pass. Senators Hendren and Pritchard hold the bill’s fate in their hands.


Anonymous said...

I don't understand how if all 3 Repubs voted against the tax they could stop it. That would leave 7 Repubs and 1 Democrat against, only 8 votes. You need 9 to stop it. 27 out 35 passes it.

Jason Tolbert, CPA said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jason Tolbert, CPA said...

You are right. I revised the post. I was working backards to 27 instead to 26.

Anonymous said...

I understand why Terry Smith opposes the tax; he's a chain smoker. What I don't understand is the Republican stand against it. This is not a grow-the-government bill; rather it's a revenue source to fund a much-needed statewide trauma system, plus a few other things. Smokers are a drain in the health-care system. That's not an opinion, but a fact. So, if this causes people to quit smoking, so much the better. If not, then they pay for the system that will end up taking care of them before they die a tobacco-related death.
For the "I'm against every tax increase" crowd: Don't smoke and you won't pay the tax.

Jason Tolbert, CPA said...

The cigarette tax is not being done to discourage smoking. The reason smokers are being targeted is that only around 1 in 4 Arkansans smoke so they are in a minority so they do not have as much influence. In addition, most smokers have an addiction and are unable to quit so the state knows they can collect the money. The state is not doing this to help smokers; they are preying upon the people who least can afford it to fund their pet programs. And this new tax will hit them at the same time as the lottery.

Two regressive “voluntary” taxes at the same time - what kind hearted legislator we have.

Brett said...

Not a "grow-the-government" bill and only used to for the trauma system and a "few other things"? How about the majority of the bill is to pay for growth in government and a small portion will fund the trauma system. I think it is pretty easy to understand why a fiscal conservative would want to oppose a tax increase in a recession.

Anonymous said...

When did Cecile Bledsoe turn into a liberal tax and spender?