On Tobacco Taxes, Medicaid, Lawmakers Clutch Purse Strings

Apr 24, 2013
Originally published on April 25, 2013 9:46 am

Polls show that the people of Louisiana and the legislature are at odds. Tuesday a constitutional amendment to raise the cigarette tax failed in committee – though recent polls by the American Cancer Society show 73 percent of Louisianians would approve of a tobacco tax increase.

Surprisingly, the cancer society opposed Jackson’s bill. Andrew Muhl, a spokesman, told Rep. Broadwater, who supported the bill, the increase wasn’t enough. “The American Cancer Society supports amounts that changes behavior, helps adults quit, and prevents youths from smoking," Muhl said.

The bill would have dedicated funds to cancer research.

Jackson pled with the committee to let citizens vote on the tax increase, but the amendment was shot down, 11 to 7, exemplifying the lack of appetite for tax increases.

At the same time, the state’s tight budget has constricted spending. A bill that would add a local house-construction charity to a tax-exempt list of national charities, like Habitat for Humanity, drew pause in Ways and Means. Chairman Joel Robideaux warned committee members of the criticism the bill would face on the floor. Though some members sided with Robideaux, the bill did pass committee.

Advocates for seniors and low-income individuals met on the steps of the Capitol Tuesday to implore Governor Jindal to negotiate with the federal government to find a way to expand Medicaid in Louisiana.

The Legislative Fiscal Office estimates the expansion would save the state money in the short term. The Governor, and the House GOP, say it would cost the state money in the long-run.

Bills to push the expansion go before the House Health and Welfare Wednesday.

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