The Senate is slated to discuss a cigarette tax increase of up to 50-cents per pack. The House approved the increase last year. Some members of both parties say the increase would significantly help the state with health care costs and budget deficits.
Charleston Republican and House Ways and Means Committee member Representative Chip Limehouse made a proposal to get a 30-cent increase in the budget.
“It’s gonna be significant. So, not only would this give us a bump in income, it won’t plug the hole, it will only be a $100 million under the current proposal I have in. But, it’ll be a step in the right direction because we have some serious budget challenges coming up. For all those people who wanted to see cuts for all those years, we’re gonna see cuts ten times deeper than anybody ever called for. So, all those people who wanted to see cuts, they’re gonna be happening,” says Limehouse.
According to his track record, raises taxes is not Limehouse’s style, but the representative says he doesn’t mind tax hikes when it comes to someone’s health.
“I’ve been a tax cutter in all of my years in the General Assembly, very conservative voter, but when it comes to cigarette taxes I take a different view of it. In particular, when someone comes to the emergency room and they don’t have insurance, we are paying for that. We pay that out of the general fund of the state. So, that comes right out of the taxpayer’s pocket right there when someone with a cigarette-related illness walks into an emergency room in South Carolina. So, all I’m trying to do is shift that tax right where it belongs off the back of the taxpayers,” says Limehouse.
Limehouse recently said at a news conference he would like to get whatever he could, even a one-cent per pack increase.
“That’s the idea to raise revenue and the other idea is you don’t want to encourage smoking. I think even people who use cigarettes I think quietly want to quit smoking. Nicotine is very addictive. This is one tax I don’t have a problem with, the cigarette tax I just don’t have a problem with, any other tax, like I said, I worked hard against. We’ve done a lot of rollbacks and tax-cutting, but for the damage it does to our public,” says Limehouse.
Limehouse says South Carolina’s current 7-cents per pack cigarette tax is a joke. He says his 30-cent increase proposal would still be lower than most states.