Iowa’s rookie lawmakers are feeling the heat when it comes to raising the state tax on cigarettes. Senator Dave Mulder, a Republican from Sioux Center who was just elected last fall, is being pressured by other Republicans to oppose the tax increase, but he considers it a moral issue. “My dad died from smoking. My best friend died from smoking, so I’m going to fight the use of tobacco every way that I can,” Mulder says. He believes raising the tax — and making cigarettes and other tobacco products more expensive — will prompt some smokers to quit and discourage kids from starting. “I’m a Republican. I’m supposed to be against tax increases…and basically I am, you know, but I’m co-authoring the tobacco tax increase,” Mulder says. Freshman Representative Jeff Kaufman, a Republican from Wilton, says his constituents want the new tax money to plug holes in the state’s Medicaid program which provides health care coverage for Iowa’s low income, disabled and poor elderly citizens. “My gut reaction, my philosophical leanings are to not raise taxes. On the other hand, I’m hearing 15 to 1 from home — a fairly rural district — that we need to (raise the cigarette tax) if it’s dedicated to Medicaid,” Kaufman says. It isn’t just Republicans who find themselves at odds with others in their party on this issue. Dawn Pettengill, a new Representative from Mt. Auburn, says she’s getting heat from her fellow Democrats because she intends to vote against raising the cigarette tax because lower-income Iowans will be harder hit with the tax increase since a larger share of them smoke. There are 19 legislators in their first term at the statehouse and 10 of them intend to support the cigarette tax hike. One of the rookie lawmakers is opposed, one is undecided and the other six failed to respond to a survey.
You are here: / / At least 10 of 19 rookie lawmakers back cigarette tax hike