Viewpoint: GA smoke tax is too low

ALBANY, GA (WALB) -- We're in the middle of the worst state budget crisis in recent memory. Despite deep and painful spending cuts, leaders still can't balance the budget. They have no choice but to find ways to increase revenue.


Yet many hard-headed Georgia lawmakers refuse even to consider one easy option that most Georgians support.

A bill to increase Georgia's tobacco tax appears to be going nowhere. Our state has one of the lowest cigarette taxes in the country, $.38 a pack. The national average is $1.38 per pack. A proposal to increase the tax by a dollar a pack could raise several hundred million dollars in new revenue a year.

It may also have the added health benefit of convincing some Georgians to stop smoking. And it doesn't affect everyone. If you don't want to pay the tax, don't buy cigarettes. But even the Representative who introduced the bill says it won't pass.

The reason is simple. Too many lawmakers don't have the guts to make a tough decision. They want to go home and tell their constituents they didn't raise their taxes. What many of those same lawmakers won't tell you, however, is they are voting to increase all sorts of fees.

Those increases aren't as transparent as a cigarette tax hike, and they get less attention. Even if lawmakers vote for them, they can still technically say they didn't raise your taxes.

Nobody likes to pay taxes, but they are necessary. Certainly, nobody likes tax increases, but in extraordinary times they may be necessary too. If we've got to raise taxes, a tobacco tax hike is the way to go.

It's time our state lawmakers mustered the courage to get it done.

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