Efforts to hike Florida’s cigarette tax by $1 a pack received bipartisan support from the Florida Senate’s healthcare panel, but Gov. Charlie Crist said flat out that he opposes the tax, the Florida Sun-Sentinel reported.
South Florida Sen. Ted Deutch proposed the cigarette tax increase, which was endorsed Tuesday by the state’s Senate Health Policy Committee. But staunch opposition from Crist and the House Republican leaders all but doom its chances, the report said.
The Senate committee passed the cigarette tax plan on a 4-1 vote after healthcare advocates packed the chambers, wearing stickers that read, "Don’t Let Florida’s Health Go Up in Smoke."
For years advocates have tried to raise Florida’s cigarette tax, but they thought the political stars might be in alignment this year, the newspaper reported. The state’s slumping tax collections and a grim roster of budget cuts targeting health programs that help the poor and children may have inspired their hopes for a cigarette tax.
An extra $1 billion in taxes, they argued, would help avoid some of the most painful cutbacks. But business interests have been working to kill the tax increase. Jose Gonzalez, a lobbyist for Associated Industries of Florida, said raising the cigarette tax so dramatically isn’t fair to smokers, the newspaper reported.