Louisiana Tobacco Tax – 2013 Bills Proposed (Updated w/ Jindal statement)

by Courtney C Horne @FireezDragon

In odd numbered years, the Louisiana legislature addresses tax matters. This year there are several bills (and one constitutional amendment)  to increase taxes on tobacco.

House Bill 235 – HB 235 (by Badon)  increases the tax on tobacco (from 36 cents a pack to $1.41 a pack) and dedicates part of that money (75%) to the Tobacco Tax Health Care Fund and the rest (25%) to a fund for maintenance of the Crescent City Connection Bridge.

House Bill 304 – HB 304  (by Talbot)  increases the tax from 36c a pack 60c a pack for cigarettes. It doesn’t specify dedication for the funds.

House Bill 417 – HB417 (by Ritchie) gets much more detailed. It increases : cigar taxes from 20 to 68 percent of the invoice price, cigarette taxes from 36 cents to $1.41 a pack, smoking tobacco from 33 to 68 percent of the invoice price, and smokeless tobacco from 20 to 68 percent of the invoice price.

It also creates a fund called the “Louisiana Healthier Families Fund” to receive the new revenue. It would then be dedicated for a variety of purposes:

52% to fund the LA Medicaid program

10% for payments against the unfunded accrued liability of the state worker and teacher retirement systems

5% for the office of state police

5% for DHH activities related to smoking cessation and prevention

5% for LSU Health Services in Shreveport activities related to cancer research or smoking cessation and prevention

5% for Pennington Biomedical Research Center for cancer research.

3% for the Greater New Orleans Biosciences Economic Development District for activities for cancer research or smoking cessation and prevention.

3% for the Louisiana Cancer Research Consortium.

3% for the University Health Sciences Center in New Orleans for cancer research or smoking cessation and prevention.

2% for school-based health centers expenditures related to smoking cessation and prevention.

2% for the Southern University Board of Supervisors for Southern University for smoking cessation and tobacco prevention programs.

See? He got pretty specific in his bill.

Next is House Bill 574- HB574 (from Robideaux) It would increase the taxes at the same rate as Ritchie’s bill as well as get rid of some tax discounts. It does not dedicate the funds. Since the bill was part of the now dead Jindal tax plan, I would guess it is dead along with the rest of the Jindal package.

Lastly comes both a constitutional amendment and a bill from Jackson. 

Her constitutional amendment – House Bill 537- HB537- would increase cigarette taxes by 32 cents a pack (to a new rate of 68 cents a pack) and other tobacco taxes to 68% of the invoice price. It also authorizes the legislature to dedicate the funds from the tax. As a constitutional amendment, this would be subject to voter approval.

Her Bill- House Bill 623 – HB 623– would increase cigarette taxes from 26 to 68 cents a pack and cigar taxes from 8 to 15% of the invoice price. The bill does not specify dedication for the increased revenue.

Now why am I – a non smoker- thinking about these bills right now?

I got a call from a group called something along the lines of the “Tobacco Freedom Front” to “warn” me about tobacco tax increases. The woman was talking very quickly so I didn’t catch the exact name of the group she was calling for and I didn’t think to have her repeat it because I really didn’t want to be on the phone. (I was napping when she called). Rather I told her that I personally favored a tobacco tax increase and that I was probably not someone she wanted to talk to. Looking back I wish I had been more alert for the call and could have gathered more info.

The call came from 504-206-3528 – a quick google search indicates that may be a call center in Kenner but nothing as exciting as coming from a political office’s number (I once traced an anti-transit  -claiming to be from an independent grass roots antitax group- robocall’s number to the number of a local GOP office). I suspect a tobacco company or group that reps them is financing the calls.

It is interesting that evidently these bills are threatening enough for someone to be paid to cold call people to tell them to try and stop the bills.


UPDATE- Jindal says he will veto any tobacco tax increase which is not paired with a tax cut elsewhere.  He opposes any efforts to increase net tax revenue in the state. We have pretty bad budget problems and already are losing public services (I saw a former state hospital worker wearing a “buck jobby findal” shirt in response to the closure of his hospital) so I find his stance to be pretty irrational.