NY Cigarette Taxes May Double
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - New York's cigarette tax would climb to a nation-high $1.11 a pack, with those revenues and the state's share of tobacco settlement funds being used to create new health insurance programs for the poor, state leaders said.
About 1 million New York adults believed to be unable to pay for health insurance will be eligible for state-subsidized coverage under various programs under a deal announced Friday.
The new programs are part of an agreement among Gov. George Pataki, state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and state Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno to extend and revamp the state's health care financing system.
If ratified by the state Legislature, the extended health care system will be in effect until June 30, 2003. Silver said he may bring his members back next week to pass the health care bill.
Bruno said he probably wouldn't call his members back until the regular 2000 session of the Legislature begins on Jan. 5.
The current Health Care Reform Act, adopted in 1996, expires Dec. 31.
The cigarette tax increase was the centerpiece of the new system outlined by the leaders Friday.
New York last raised its cigarette tax on June 1, 1993, to 56-cents-a-pack, then the highest in the nation. But since then, New York's charge has dropped to 16th highest in the country.
By adopting a 55-cent-a-pack increase, New York would again be the No. 1 cigarette taxing state. The current leaders are Hawaii and Alaska, which each charge $1 a pack in taxes.
The cigarette tax hike will raise an average of about $400 million a year.