* The Sun-Times editorialized on behalf of the cigarette tax hike to help patch the state’s huge Medicaid funding hole…
First, a tax on cigarettes will deter smoking. The American Cancer Society estimates the tax increase would stop 72,700 children in Illinois from becoming smokers and encourage 53,400 adults to quit. That’s no small accomplishment, given how terrible smoking is for our health.
Second, smoking-related health-care costs drive up Medicaid spending, a fact Gov. Quinn emphasized when he met with the Sun-Times editorial board Friday. Smoking is estimated to cost the state $4.10 billion a year in health-care costs — and $1.5 billion of that tab is picked up by Medicaid.
“This is a very big public health measure,” Quinn said, “and anyone who is involved in public health is all for this.”
Third, trying to balance the state’s Medicaid budget with cuts alone means walking away from federal dollars. No other tax offers that huge federal match.
Fourth, Quinn already is proposing 58 stunningly deep Medicaid cuts. Further cuts would be devastating.
Fifth, the last three Republican governors of Illinois backed cigarette tax increases five times.
One significant quibble: Any tax hike or revenue increase or budget cut elsewhere could be used to leverage federal Medicaid dollars.
* The Tribune also backs it…
All of this is necessary, but doesn’t reach $2.7 billion. Enter the $1-a-pack cigarette tax, which would generate an estimated $337.5 million. Because Washington matches each state dollar spent on Medicaid, the state’s gain would double, to $675 million. We support this hike for two reasons: Medicaid, which provides care for smoking-induced illnesses, needs the money; the American Cancer Society estimates that tobacco cost Illinois $1.5 billion in Medicaid spending last year. And making cigarettes costlier means many people will quit or never start.
We hope Democrats, including those beholden to unions, will build on Quinn’s plan. Just as we hope Republicans will do the same — and drop their opposition to including a cigarette tax hike in any Medicaid rescue.
For Illinois to escape its downward spiral, its politicians of both parties will need to abandon some of their customary talking points (”No benefit reduction,” “No tax hike”).
We take it as a real measure of leadership that Gov. Quinn — accepting his “rendezvous with reality” — is pressing the case for major Medicaid and pension reforms. Friday afternoon, meeting with our editorial board, he said that legislative agreement to rescue Medicaid and pensions “will make Illinois a whole lot better state.”
* A Paul Simon Public Policy Institute’s 2011 poll of southern Illinoisans showed a large majority supported the cigarette tax hike…
While Southern Illinois voters remain adamantly opposed to raising major taxes to plug the state’s $15 billion budget deficit, they show some support for increasing the cigarette tax, according to the latest Southern Illinois Poll conducted by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.
The poll, taken Feb. 14-22, showed 60.3 percent of registered voters in the state’s southernmost 18 counties favor a $1 per pack increase in the cigarette tax. There were 36 percent opposed. The rest were undecided.
* And a statewide poll taken in 2010, at the height of Tea Party intensity, found that almost three quarters of Illinoisans backed the tax increase…
A poll released Thursday by the Illinois Coalition Against Tobacco found that voters statewide supported raising the cigarette tax by $1 – from 98 cents per pack to $1.98.
Of the 502 people who were surveyed, 74 percent supported the increase. That total included 71 percent of Republicans, 81 percent of Democrats and 68 percent of independents.
Even 42 percent of smokers said they support a cigarette tax increase, the survey found.
Supporters said the tax increase was the best way to fix the state’s $13 billion budget deficit. Other options, including higher income taxes, higher sales taxes and higher vehicle registration fees, were largely opposed.
Interestingly enough, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids estimated back in 2010 that the buck a pack tax hike would bring in “nearly $300 million each year.” Gov. Quinn estimates that his buck a pack tax hike would bring in well over $300 million a year.
* But the two GOP legislative leaders are opposed…
“We stand with our members on the Medicaid working group against any tax increases to solve our Medicaid crisis,” noted Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno and House Minority Leader Tom Cross. “We are encouraging the working group to continue working in a bipartisan way to come up with $2.7 billion in Medicaid reforms and cuts, not revenue enhancements.”
* Former Senate President Pate Philip, a conservative, anti-tax Republican, usually supported cigarette tax hikes, believing the impact was felt mainly by Democratic voters, which may be why some Democratic legislators are opposed.…
“I’ve always been again against cigarette taxes,” said state Sen. Gary Forby, D-Benton. “My district likes to smoke. When you do a tax on this, they go over in Kentucky, they go over in Indiana and they buy them cheaper. They just quit spending money in the state of Illinois.”
Illinois has a very long border with a whole lot of states, which is probably the most logical reason to oppose a cigarette tax hike.
* Components of Medicaid savings plan still open to change
* Finke: Quinn threatens no break until Medicaid deal
* Our View: Illinois’ health care, pension quandary
* Smokers Upset About Proposed Cigarette Tax Hike
* Illinois Medicaid cuts worry healthcare providers
* Local reps not excited by Quinn’s Medicaid plans - Republicans Moffitt, LaHood say targeting fraud, abuse more important
* McCaleb: Positive steps on Medicaid, pensions?
* Cancer Society supports higher Ill. tax on cigarettes
* Despite questions, Quinn’s Medicaid proposal winning some praise