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Lawmakers Question Cig Tax's Sustainability As Part Of Road Funding Plan

Jamelah E.

As health groups advocate for the cigarette tax hike in House Republicans' road funding plan, opposition to the bill say that if people stop smoking, the state would receive less money.

Anti-smoking groups argue the opponents should support this one as a public-health measure, but Senate President Pro Tem David Long (R-Fort Wayne) says it’s impossible to separate the tax hike from the road repairs it's intended to pay for. 

“We have to find long-term, permanent funding for our roads – that’s one of the reasons why the Senate feels we need more talk," he says. "We need to get our heads wrapped around what it’s going to take to invest in the roads in such a way that we not only build our most important projects, but we have a sustainable source of revenue.”

And the Indiana Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Commission says adult smoking prevalence in the state has been declining.

Credit Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Commission / Indiana State Department of Health
Indiana State Department of Health
A 2015 Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Commission release says cigarette sales and smoking prevalence are indicators of smoking behavior. (Data included from the CDC's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System and the Indiana Department of Revenue).

The Commission has also said "increased state revenues per pack, due to a tax increase, more than make up for revenue losses from fewer cigarette sales."

House Minority Leader Scott Pelath (D-Michigan City) says he’s voted for cigarette tax increases before, but says it needs to be approached very carefully.

“There’s a lot of major positive things that can be done on infrastructure that don’t require any new taxes. We’ve got to remember, too, we’ve got to get this thing around the governor,” Pelath says. “They don’t talk about him enough with respect to this – he’s got that veto pen and I thought he was pretty clear in his State of the State.”

The proposed dollar-a-pack tax increase would move Indiana's cigarette tax from the nation's 17th-lowest to the 17th-highest.

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