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"It was a splendid population - for all the slow, sleepy, sluggish-brained sloths stayed at home - you never find that sort of people among pioneers - you cannot build pioneers out of that sort of material. It was that population that gave to California a name for getting up astounding enterprises and rushing them through with a magnificent dash and daring and a recklessness of cost or consequences, which she bears unto this day - and when she projects a new surprise the grave world smiles as usual and says, "Well, that is California all over."

- - - - Mark Twain (Roughing It)

Monday, November 30, 2015

California tobacco tax measure’s supporters, foes prepare for battle

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.


The proposed “California Healthcare, Research and Prevention Tobacco Tax Act of 2016” would: Increase the state’s cigarette tax by $2 per pack, with an equivalent increase on other tobacco products and electronic cigarettes. The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office and state Finance Department estimate the tax hike would bring in $1.1 billion to $1.4 billion per year by 2017-18, but drop slightly in later years.
Spend the revenue mostly to increase funding for existing health care programs and services, but also for tobacco use prevention programs, as well for tobacco-related disease research.
Source: SaveLivesCalifornia.com
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.
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