The chairman of the Iowa Senate’s tax-writing committee predicts the Iowa Legislature will pass a 40- to 60-cent increase in the state tax on a pack of cigarettes. But Senator Joel Bolkcom, a Democrat from Iowa City, does not expect lawmakers to hike the state tax on gasoline.
“I think Iowans expect us to do our homework and make sure that when we go to them for resources for things like roads or other services that they depend on that we’ve done their due diligence and make sure that we really need that money,” Bolkcom says. “That process hasn’t taken place yet.” Bolkcom admits a disproportionate share of low income Iowans smoke, and they will bear a heavier tax burden if the state tobacco tax goes up.
“I think there are concerns about the regressive nature of those taxes, but let’s be clear: the tobacco tax is something that has broad support across the state,” Bolkcom says. Making smoking more costly will discourage teenage smoking, according to Bolkcom. He says the health benefits outweigh any concerns about cigarette bootlegging across state lines if Iowa increases the tax on a pack of cigarettes.
“We currently have inequity now. Illinois, for example, has a tobacco tax of 98 cents. Ours is 36 cents. We have people from Illinois currently coming into Iowa,” Bolkcom says. “…We’re always going to have the border issues.” Bolkcom made his comments during taping of the ‘Iowa Press’ program that airs tonight on Iowa Public Television.