Congress is considering a plan to increase federal cigarette taxes 61-cents per pack to pay for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, a member of the Finance Committee, says they’ll "mark-up" the bill tonight to finalize the spending plan.
President Bush has threatened to veto the legislation, but Grassley says he’s unphased by the threat. Grassley says: "We’ve decided that the amount of money that can be raised by an increase in the cigarette tax is what we’re going to put into it. We’re going to go with a 35-billion dollar bill. Now, the president can veto that if he wants to and then you know what we’ll do? We’ll extend existing policy for another year, another two years."
Grassley says if a higher tax on cigarettes gets people to quit smoking, they’ll be healthier for the rest of their lives. He says, "I consider it an investment in good health." Grassley, a Republican, says the White House has already tweaked previous legislation on children’s health care and damaged the final product.
Grassley says, "The president has got a choice between taking what we’re going to do at 35-billion, correcting a lot of bad policy that his administration put in place like giving waivers to the states so they can take their extra money that should have been spent on children and actually spend it on adults. We’re going to do away with those waivers and a lot of other bad policy that’s evolved here in this administration."
He says it’s believed the proposal would lead more than three-million children who are now uninsured to getting health coverage. Grassley says if it takes another tax hike on cigarettes, so be it. Grassley says, "The cigarette tax and children’s health insurance program is a natural ally. A lot of reasons that people have bad health problems after they become mature is because they started smoking. We find that increasing the cigarette tax particularly cuts down on smoking among young people."
Iowa smokers saw state taxes on cigarettes raised one-dollar-a-pack in March, thanks to legislation passed by Iowa lawmakers. Grassley says he realizes raising the federal tax another 61-cents will enflame plenty of smokers, especially in Iowa. Grassley says: "That worries me a little bit but I still think we have to do what we have to do here in Washington. I don’t have any control over the state legislature. They don’t have any control over us. We have our independent constitutional taxing authority."