House committee OKs doubling of tobacco tax
PHOENIX - A proposed referendum to more than double Arizona's tobacco tax sailed through a House committee, apparently headed to the ballot to compete with an initiative proposed by health groups.
The Appropriations Committee voted 12-2 today for the measure (HCR2027), which proposes to add 60 cents to the state's current 58-cent tax on a package of 20 cigarettes. It later cleared the Rules Committee en route to the full House.
Of the projected $150.9 million in additional annual revenue, $64 million would help pay for a recent, voter-approved expansion of health care for the working poor. Costs for the expansion are exceeding the principal funding source - money from settlements paid by tobacco companies - and lawmakers want to avoid having to tap the state's general fund.
The rest of the money would be spent on a new subsidy for emergency care, disease research grants and existing programs for health-care and tobacco education.
Similar legislation is pending in the Senate.
Health groups have launched an initiative campaign for an identical tax increase. Most of its new money would go for research, early detection and prevention of diseases.