Richardson Wants Smokers to Help Foot His Bill

March 1, 2010

NM lawmakers to consider sales tax increase:

The House and Senate will consider the budget package, including more than $200 million in tax increases, during a special session that convenes Monday.

Gov. Bill Richardson called lawmakers back to work after they failed to agree on a state budget during a 30-day legislative session that ended last month.

…Democratic leaders met last week and negotiated a budget-balancing package of tax increases and spending cuts. Persuading House and Senate rank-and-file members to back the proposals won’t be easy, however.

Among the proposals:

— A 50-cent increase in the tax on a package of cigarettes. It would generate nearly $24 million. The state tax is currently 91 cents a pack.

New Mexico now ranks 30th in the country for cigarette tax rates, but a 50 cent hike would bring them up to the 21st. Many politicians like to rob an unpopular minority’s pleasure instead of do something politically unpopular—like cut spending—during rough economic times. Last year 15 states, the federal government, and Puerto Rico increased cigarette taxes. The worst time to be a smoker is during a recession.

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