As expected, Gov. Mark Sanford vetoed the 50-cent cigarette tax increase passed last week by the legislature. In a press conference held at his office today, the governor contends, “What we are talking about is $1.3 billion that would move from the private sector –and people’s discretion on where they spend that money–over to government. ”
The tax increase passed by the General Assembly will mainly go to pay South Carolina’s Medicaid bill. Lawmakers who passed it say they expect it to decline as a revenue source, but not until the state has gotten through the hardship of this recession.
The governor’s $1.3 billion calculation is a 10-year projection, and those numbers are refutable, says Kelly Davis, who speaks for a coalition of the SC Heart Association, Lung Association and other public health groups:
Actually our data shows almost that exact amount would be the longterm health care savings to our state. With a 50-cent per pack increase, more than 23,000 of our young people would never begin to smoke, and over 12,ooo adults would be projected to quit. With tobacco use being the number one preventable cause of death and disease in this country and in our state, it’s just a great missed opportunity on the governor’s part to protect public health.
Sanford took what he calls the “larger view” of the longterm ills of dependence on tax increases:”I think we are really at a gut-check point really as a civilization.”
Supporters of Sanford’s veto a the press conference took issue with the bill at different levels, from convenience store owners to lawmakers concerned with losing revenue to neighboring states with slightly lower cigarette taxes than the one proposed for South Carolina. Right now, the Palmetto State has the lowest cigarette tax in the nation at seven cents.
Greenville Representative Eric Bedingfield says he is standing by his Republican principles, “Our singlemost unifying message, a message that has attracted millions to elect Republicans and a Republican majority here in South Carolina is that we stand against tax-and-spend agendas.”
Rock Hill Representative Gary Simrill says,
I border an area called Charlotte, North Carolina. Their taxes on cigarettes have gone up to 45-cents a pack, Georgia is at 37-cents a pack. By going to 50[cents], we put ourselves, economically, at a disadvantage to our neighboring states. That must not happen now, especially, because we are at a economic downturn.In the Senate, soon after the veto, Richland’s Joel Lourie addressed fellow Senators–soon after the veto:
Richland Senator Joel Lourie went to the governor’s veto — and reported back to the Senate floor, sounding guardedly optimistic:
It’s not a big surprise; it was anticipated. We’ve got to go to work now, we’ve got to work to override that veto if and when that bill comes to the Senate.
I heard about a pledge, I heard about a party platform. I never heard about the people of South Carolina and that’s what we as senators are charged with the responsibility of representing the people of South Carolina and I hope we’ll do that —if and when the bill comes to the Senate.