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Revenue enhancements are focus of session

Posted: Aug 07, 2018 5:04 PM Updated:

Day 7 of the Budget Battle saw senators back to talking about "revenue enhancements." This time they voted to raise the tobacco tax, which will generate another $9 million in extra money to help address health-related costs associated with smoking.

Senator Joe S. San Agustin is proposing to raise the tax on cigarettes, cigars and chewing tobacco, a provision first proffered by Speaker Benjamin J. Cruz in the original budget bill more than a week ago. He said, "But I'm glad Senator San Agustin made the motion. I'm hoping that my inability to get my amendments through earlier was just the messenger and not the message.

"It does two things, it becomes a disincentive to smoking and it becomes a tool to by which we are able to raise some additional money to help balance this budget."

Senator Louise Muna explains her support, shared by many of her colleagues, noting, "I'm just hoping and crossing my fingers that maybe a slight rise in the cost of doing something this harmful to their bodies will deter them from doing it."

The amendment increases the tax from $15 to $20 per 100 cigarettes with the proceeds going to the Healthy Futures Fund.

Senators have also voted to increase the real property tax on million dollar or more structural improvements, and to permanize the 5 percent business privilege tax. They also approved slashing the budgets for the Governor's Office, Rev & Tax, and the administration department forcing them to collect past due taxes to fully fund their operations.

The revenue enhancements, along with the budget cuts, are designed to bridge a $138 million dollar shortfall from the Trump tax reforms.

While the tobacco tax increase passed, another amendment by Senator San Agustin to also raise the tax on alcohol failed.

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