A report by congressional economists examining potential revenue from tobacco tax increases could give further ammunition to some lawmakers eyeing a tax hike to help offset the cost to reauthorize and expand the State Childrens Health Insurance Program. A meeting scheduled for today by the Senate Finance Committee to reauthorize the 1997 statute has been postponed and probably wont be taken up until after the July 4 recess.
The report, put together by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, Congress public-policy research arm, found that the large majority of tobacco taxes are on cigarettes, which account for 90% of tobacco sales and totaled $88 billion in 2005. Federal cigarette taxes are 39 cents per pack and account for 97% of federal tobacco-tax revenue. Smaller taxes are levied on cigars, chewing tobacco and other less widely used products.
Last week, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids released the results of a survey that showed that American voters overwhelmingly would support a per-pack increase of up to 75 cents on cigarettes as a way to help defray the costs of extending and expanding the SCHIP program. The poll of 1,000 registered voters showed that 67% of respondents would support a tax increase, while 28% said they would not.
In recent weeks, White House officials have become increasingly vocal in opposing the largely Democratic-led effort to expand SCHIP at a cost of about $50 billion over five years. In a health policy speech Wednesday that riled some Capitol Hill Democrats, President Bush called the effort to greatly expand SCHIP a massive expansion of government healthcare. -- by Matthew DoBias