Many legislators who support raising the cigarette tax say the issue will return next year. The budget deal Governor Vilsack and legislative leaders agreed to does not include a hike in the state tax on cigarettes, mainly because Republicans in the House refused to vote to raise the tax. Senator Nancy Boettger, a Republican from Harlan, is disappointed. “I’ve always been for raising the tax in order to cut down on kids’ smoking,” Boettger says. “I worked in prevention for years and years and years and anything we can do to keep kids from starting works because it’s proven that if they don’t start before they’re 20, they probably aren’t doing to start.” Representative Scott Raecker, a Republican from Urbandale, agrees. Raecker says when other states have increased their cigarette taxes, the number of middle- and high-school students who smoke has decreased. The Senate had voted to raise the cigarette tax 36-cents-a-pack, and devote the money to property tax relief. Representative Steve Olson, a Republican from Grand Mound, says that was the flaw. “I could have voted to raise the cigarette tax if we could have used it for health care,” Olson says. Representative Mike May, a Republican from Spirit Lake, agrees. “My concern all along was that if we do have a cigarette tax (increase) that we use that money for health care and that we don’t use it as an excuse to spend money in other areas,” May says. Representative Dwayne Alons, a Republican from Hull, says he can understand those who want to raise the tax on cigarettes to discourage kids from taking up the habit. But Alons says state tax revenues are already climbing, and to raise the tax would “add more fuel on the fire to raise spending.” He says it would cause the state budget to grow too large, and force cut-backs when there’s another economic downturn, which he says it inevitable.
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