Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Crist to approve $1-a-pack increase in cigarette tax

TALLAHASSEE — Get ready to pay more for smoking cigarettes in Florida.

Gov. Charlie Crist unequivocally stated Tuesday that he will allow a $1-a-pack tax to become law.

“The cigarette tax is appropriate, and I really view it more as a health issue than I do as a tax issue,” Crist said.

Crist had signaled weeks ago that he would accept the so-called “tobacco surcharge,” but then he signed a no-new-taxes pledge last week, raising the prospect that he might veto the increase.

A veto of the cigarette tax would have thrown the proposed budget for the year that begins July 1 into chaos, and likely would have led to a special lawmaking session.

The tax, which will raise more than $900 million a year, is tied to the Medicaid health insurance program serving 2.6 million Floridians. With the tax money gone, the state would have lost nearly $2 billion in federal Medicaid matching funds.

Senate budget chief J.D. Alexander said he made sure to weave the tobacco surcharge into the Medicaid budget for two big reasons: It links smoking with a dedicated funding source to help treat sick smokers, and it makes it tougher for the governor to veto.

By agreeing to accept the tax increase, Crist is breaking the “Taxpayer Protection Pledge” for governors that he signed. The group behind the pledge, Washington-based Americans for Tax Reform, has long fought for — and been supported by — tobacco manufacturers.

Though he’ll break the state tax pledge, Crist, a U.S. Senate candidate, signed a second pledge last week from Americans for Tax Reform that asks federal candidates to oppose income tax increases. Florida has no income tax.

Crist has until May 30 to sign the budget and use his line-item veto to strike items he doesn’t like from the spending plan.

The National Rifle Association and state Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson are urging Crist to cancel a $6 million raid on a trust fund that helps pay for concealed weapons permits.

Crist had initially requested that legislators take $8 million from it. Crist wouldn’t say Tuesday what he would do about the trust fund raid or about a range of fees that the Legislature raised on drivers and court users.

In all, legislators are raising about $2.2 billion in new revenue. The biggest chunk of that money comes from smokers. Crist, paraphrasing President Ronald Reagan, said he didn’t mind smokers paying more.

“Reagan said when you want to kill something you ought to tax it. Well, it wouldn’t be bad if you killed smoking,” Crist said. “There are about 2 million Floridians, maybe a few less, who smoke. And it’s not good for you.”

Marc Caputo can be reached at mcaputo@MiamiHerald.com.

Crist to approve $1-a-pack increase in cigarette tax 05/19/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 19, 2009 9:09pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. No toll lanes north of downtown Tampa in three of four interstate proposals

    Transportation

    TAMPA — Express lanes may not be coming to downtown Tampa after all. Or at least not to the stretch of Interstate 275 that goes north through Bearss Avenue.

    Seminole Heights resident Kimberly Overman discusses the new interstate options with V.M. Ybor resident Chris Vela (left), Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Kemp and HNTB consultant Chloe Coney during a Tampa Bay Express meeting Monday night at the Barrymore Hotel. [CAITLIN JOHNSTON  |  Times]
  2. Pinellas grants St. Pete's request to add millions to pier budget

    Local Government

    Times Staff Writer

    The Pinellas County Commission has granted St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman's request to dedicate millions more toward the city's new pier.

    The St. Petersburg City Council on Thursday  voted 7-1 to appropriate $17.6 million for the over-water portion of the Pier District. This is a rendering of what the new Pier District could look like. [Courtesy of St. Petersburg]
  3. Man injured when small helicopter crashes into Odessa home

    Accidents

    ODESSA — A small manned helicopter crashed into the roof of a house in northwest Hillsborough County on Monday, injuring a pilot, officials said.

    Rescuers respond to a crash of a small helicopter on the roof of a home in the Odessa area on Monday. [Hillsborough County Fire Rescue]
  4. State investigation cites multiple failures in death of Largo child

    News

    LARGO — It was sweltering in the bedroom of the Largo mobile home the day a child welfare case manager visited in July.

    Liz Rutenbeck, 24, poses with her son William in a Facebook photo. Baby William Hendrickson IV died while his mother was in jail after police said his father left ihim in a sweltering room.  A state investigation into the boy's death found multiple failures on the part of the child welfare system.
  5. 'Siesta Key' star punched in face, not sure who did it

    News

    TAMPA —Alex Kompothecras, cast member on MTV's reality show "Siesta Key," tells police he was punched in the face outside a bar in Tampa's SoHo district.

    Alex Kompothecras, Juliette Porter, Pauly Apostolides, Madisson Hausburg, Chloe Trautman, Garrett Miller, Kelsey Owens and Brandon Gomes pose for a photo in Siesta Key in June before the debut of the MTV reality series Siesta Key. [
EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times]