Union Backs More Taxes
Taking money from your pocket to line their pockets
(Los Angeles Daily News) - Three-and-a-half years after California voters rejected a $1-per-pack increase in the state’s cigarette tax, Big Tobacco and health advocates are preparing to duke it out once again over a proposed $2-per-pack hike likely to appear on next November’s ballot.
But having been outspent almost 4-to-1 by tobacco companies to lose by just four-tenths of a percentage point — the narrowest defeat of any statewide measure in California’s history — backers of the tax hike now believe they have the upper hand.
Even though a group of moderate Democrats, many of whom had accepted Big Tobacco’s money, helped snuff out a $2-per-pack tax in the Legislature this year, polls show the public favors the proposal by more than 2-1. A powerful union has already pumped $3 million into the campaign, and billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer has kicked in another million.
And because the measure will appear on a presidential ballot rather than a primary ballot like last time, the bigger electorate will be more left-leaning.
With all of that, proponents believe they’re poised to put another nail in the coffin of Big Tobacco in the Golden State — not only by hiking taxes on regular cigarettes but also by imposing for the first time taxes on electronic cigarettes.
“Is it a last nail? Boy, we hope so,” said Laphonza Butler, California president of the Service Employees International Union. “We see it as an opportunity to do what’s right for California.”
Unlike 2012’s measure, which would have dedicated 75 percent of its revenue to cancer research, the measure proposed for next year would put 82 percent of its revenue toward the state’s often-struggling health care programs, including Medi-Cal. SEIU represents many public health care workers.
“There’s no reason that we should not try to reduce smoking rates and add revenue to long-term health costs — and do that by taxing one of the most expensive health habits that contribute to those costs,” Butler said.
Steyer, a former hedge fund mogul who has brought his fortune to bear on environmental politics, told this newspaper that his mother “was a multi-pack-a-day smoker who died of lung cancer” at age 78 in 2002.Read More . . . .