House offers deal on tobacco tax that exempts cigars
In the latest closed-door offer to the Florida Senate offered by the House chief budget negotiator, Rep. Dean Cannon, the House abandons its no-taxes position and instead agrees to the Senate's $1-per-pack increase in a cigarette tax. But, in a slight to the Miami delegation and a nod to Tampa's lawmakers, it also imposes a new tax on tobacco companies that don't pay the state a settlement fee and eliminates the new $1-per-ounce tax on cigars.
The measure is aggressively opposed by Dosal Tobacco, the home-grown Miami company that makes low-cost cigarettes. It was sued but dismissed from the state's 1994 lawsuit against Big Tobacco. Persuading the state to impose a fee on Dosal and other non-settling manufacturers has been a top priority of the nation's cigarette giants this session, next to killing the cigarette tax.
To protest the move, Dosal announced today that it will close its plant on Friday and bus all its employees and their family members to Tallahassee to send the message they don't want their jobs threatened by the legislature's budget fix.
"These people need their jobs,'' said Yolanda Nader, CEO of Dosal. She said that if the state believes the company ought to be paying into the settlement, it should not have dismissed Dosal from the original lawsuit 15 years ago.
Their concerns may be short-lived, however. Senate budget chief, J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales and Senate President Jeff Atwater have said they don't support the tax on nonsettling manufacturers like Dosal. As to the Cannon offer that trades cigars for cigarettes, Alexander said Thursday: "We're not too keen on that.''
The company has produced this television ad and will begin airing it in Tallahassee this weekend.