A cigarette tax hike appears dead for the year.
The House approved a cigarette tax hike for the third time in six years. But for the third time, Senate Republicans killed the idea. Democrats’ attempt to amend it back in failed on a party-line vote.
Appropriations Chairman Ryan Mishler says a tax hike should stay in the toolbox until it’s needed to cover health costs. He says he’s concerned the federal government will eventually reduce the funding it sends the state to help pay for the Healthy Indiana Plan insurance package for the otherwise uninsured.
House Speaker Todd Huston (R-Fishers) says he supports raising the tax to discourage people from smoking, especially teenagers. Mishler says while fewer people would smoke if the tax were raised, he argues the size of the impact has been oversold.
The tax hike could still be restored to the budget as Mishler and House Ways and Means Chairman Tim Brown (R-Crawfordsville) negotiate a final spending plan over the next week-and-a-half. But Huston says it’s a significant policy difference between House and Senate Republicans.
Both the House and Senate budgets do include a first-ever tax on vaping, though health groups complain it’s too low. Both bills add a 10-percent sales tax on e-liquids, but the Senate version taxes preloaded cartridges separately, based on the volume of liquid.