Smoke in her aye?
No, says U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor. The Tampa Democrat says she's trying to dampen a whopper of a cigar tax, but not at the expense of the children's health insurance the new tax is supposed to fund.
"We're working on it. If we can make it more equitable to (taxes on cigarettes), we will," Castor told reporters in her office Friday. "But our first priority is children's health."
Castor, a freshman, represents several cigar-making operations in West Tampa and Ybor City, and cigar makers fear a downturn in sales if Congress approves the tax increase to pay for an expansion of the State Childrens Health Insurance Program, known on Capitol Hill as S-Chip.
The current federal tax is about 5 cents per cigar. The Senate version calls for a 53-percent excise tax on the tobacco used to roll cigars, with a cap of $10 per cigar. The House version seeks a 44-percent excise tax, with a $1 maximum tax per cigar. Floridians in both chambers are working to trim the proposed taxes before the House and Senate vote on the bills next week.
Congress wants to expand the program to cover up to 6-million more children who are poor, but not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid. President Bush has vowed to veto the increase.