Clinton Open to Tobacco Tax Talks
President Clinton signaled a willingness Thursday to negotiate with Republicans on a cigarette tax increase smaller than the 55 cents a pack he proposed earlier this year.
At his news conference, Clinton invited Republican congressional leaders to talk over the proposal as an alternative to unacceptable across-the-board spending cuts currently contemplated by the GOP to meet balanced-budget spending caps.
``You know, they don't have to agree to raise it as much as our proposal, but it would help to sit down and negotiate that,'' the president said. ``If they don't like my offsets, what are their offsets? Maybe there are some other things we could agree on.''
Clinton also stressed the benefits of raising taxes on cigarettes, particularly if young people are prevented from starting to smoke.
``We know more needs to be done to get our kids off tobacco. And we know that raising the price of a pack of cigarettes is one of the best ways to do it,'' the president said.
Yet Republicans and a sizable number of Democrats, particularly those from tobacco-growing states, adamantly oppose higher tobacco taxes. On principle, most Republicans oppose virtually any tax increase this year.
``Tax increases as a means of meeting budgetary needs have a way of causing higher and higher spending that never goes away,'' said Rep. Bill Archer, R-Texas, chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee. ``What they are saying is they want to tax and spend.''
House GOP leaders are considering holding a vote next week on the entire $89.7 billion net tax increase package -- including the tobacco tax increase -- proposed by Clinton to balance his fiscal 2000 budget. Many Democrats likely would vote against such as measure, putting them on record against the tax increases.
``It could be very good for the president to realize that a large percentage of the House Democrats are not going to support tax increases,'' Archer said. ``Maybe that's a good way to get that message to the White House.''