by Annie Linskey
2:02 p.m. EST, November 14, 2012
Health Care For All, led by Annapolis stalwart Vinnie DeMarco, kicked off his push at a news conference in Annapolis today. “It works. It is good politics and good policy,” DeMarco said. “We need the money for health care”
The change would increase the state’s cigarette tax from $2 per pack to $3, and bring the average price to $7.29. It would mean Maryland would have the 6th highest cigarette tax in the country, according to DeMarco. Now Maryland has the 11th highest cigarette tax. DeMarco also wants a similar increase to the tax on small cigars — so young people will not switch to those products.
DeMarco said the 2007 tax increase raised tens of millions a year while also contributing to reducing smoking in the state. Roughly 276 million packs were sold in Maryland in 2007. The following year, purchases dropped to 202 million, according to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids. Just this year the General Assembly increased the taxes on small cigars.
A dollar a pack tax was introduced by in the 2012 regular session by Del. Eric Luedtke, a Montgomery Couty Democrat. The Department of Legislative services estimated it would bring in about $50 million a year for the state’s operating budget.
The increased tax revenue, he said, should be used for health care related costs like paying for Maryland’s new health care exchanges, market places for health insurance required by President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.
Raquel Guillory, a spokeswoman for Gov. Martin O’Malley, said the governor is awaiting recommendations from a committee formed earlier this year to determine funding sources for the health exchanges. The governor, she said, “will evaluate the possibilities once those recommendations are made.”
The proposal will encounter resistance from some corners of the state house. House GOP leader Del. Anthony O’Donnell predicted there would be “zero” support for the tax in his 43 member caucus. “If we keep raising taxes we’ll never institute the fiscal restraint we need,” he said. “There will be another tax after this one, and another tax after that one.”