Concord, NH - The Portsmouth Herald called for the repeal of the Republican cigarette tax break this weekend, citing news that it has cost New Hampshire taxpayers 11 million dollars since July.
Key Points: "Mr. Bettencourt, on what planet is an $11 million shortfall "revenue neutral?" How is that misinformation? On this issue, it seems the House leaders who like to say they are fiscally responsible are either blinded by ideology or so beholden to special interests that the lies just effortlessly flow from their lips.
"It's time to repeal the tobacco tax cut and it's also past time for House Republicans to find leadership better able to represent the interests of the people of New Hampshire rather than corporately funded ideologues.
"The people of New Hampshire deserve better."
Portsmouth Herald: Cigarette tax cut must be repealed
December 3, 2011
The tortured logic used to justify New Hampshire House Speaker Bill O'Brien's insistence on cutting the state's tobacco tax by 10 cents a pack has cost the state $11 million since July, and it will continue to cost the state millions of dollars until common sense prevails and the tax cut is repealed.
You'll recall that in June, O'Brien hijacked the state budget process, insisting that nothing would get done unless the tobacco tax cut was included. This last-minute chicanery followed O'Brien's visit to the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., which receives a substantial amount of funding from the tobacco industry.
"Speaker O'Brien returned from his meetings with a big tobacco-funded special interest group and immediately fought tooth and nail for a decrease in the tobacco tax," said Zandra Rice Hawkins, Granite State Progress director.
But it wasn't just Democrats, progressives and anti-smoking advocates upset by O'Brien's obvious selling out of the people of New Hampshire to the tobacco industry.
Republican state Sen. Chuck Morse, the finance committee chairman, accused O'Brien of holding the budget hostage. "I want to make it perfectly clear, the Senate is totally offended by the actions of leadership in the House," Morse told the Concord Monitor at the time.
And Republican state Sen. Jack Barnes said, "I've never seen an industry twist and push our Legislature the way the tobacco industry pushed."
O'Brien and his minions argued the tax cut was needed not to fatten the already bulging pockets of tobacco companies, but rather to help poor Mom and Pop grocers who would get more customers if the tobacco tax was lowered. O'Brien made this claim despite New Hampshire already having the lowest tobacco tax in New England. Immediately after the tax cut, all the major tobacco companies helped Mom and Pop by raising the price of cigarettes the very same 10 cents a pack.
O'Brien then said that the state would make up in volume the tobacco tax money it was throwing away amidst the worst budget crisis in a generation.
Clearly, that hasn't happened. In fact, it's not even close.
In November alone, the tobacco receipts were $3.5 million below the projected level and $4.3 million below November 2010.
Despite this miserable failure, House Majority Leader D.J. Bettencourt told the Grocer's Association last week that it's too soon to say cutting the tobacco tax was a mistake.
"The idea that the tobacco tax cut was made at the expense of other services or caused budget cuts to be deeper is ludicrous," Bettencourt said. "Budget writers moved forward with this tax cut on the basis of several economic studies that established that cutting this tax would produce greater revenue but the worst case scenario being that it would be revenue neutral. This is important for the public to remember as critics attempt to spread misinformation about this budget."
Mr. Bettencourt, on what planet is an $11 million shortfall "revenue neutral?" How is that misinformation? On this issue, it seems the House leaders who like to say they are fiscally responsible are either blinded by ideology or so beholden to special interests that the lies just effortlessly flow from their lips.
It's time to repeal the tobacco tax cut and it's also past time for House Republicans to find leadership better able to represent the interests of the people of New Hampshire rather than corporately funded ideologues.
The people of New Hampshire deserve better.