April 27, 2006
Coleman on HB5

One of the five bills relating to the tax overhaul failed to make it through the House on Monday. That was HB5, which was responsible for raising the cigarette tax. All I knew was that it had been killed by a point of order by Rep. Garnet Coleman. As the issue that initial sent HB5 back to committee was fixed, and the bill was approved by the House today, I asked Rep. Coleman to give me a statement about it. Here's what his chief of staff sent me:

The tobacco tax bill, HB5, passed out of the House today. It was pulled down on a point of order by Rep. Coleman on Monday because the committee substitute contained provisions relating to bonding and a fee to pay for debt service that were not germane to the original bill. Those provisions were subsequently removed from the bill. There was another valid point of order on the bill today, but the House voted to suspend the procedural rule that was violated so the point was never raised.

The bill passed out of the House raises the cigarette tax by a dollar immediately upon effect. An amendment by Rep. Warren Chisum to raise the tax by 65 cents instead of $1 was soundly defeated both by members voting to maximize the shock value of moving immediately to $1 for public health reasons and by members who wanted to maximize the revenue generated by the tax increase because it is all dedicated to buying down property taxes.

Rep. Coleman had an amendment to the bill that would have instead dedicated the revenue to the general fund for the purpose of improving public health. That amendment, and numerous other Democratic amendments that would have dedicated the funds to state needs like a teacher pay raise, tobacco cessation programs, etc., were ruled non-germane to the bill and were not permitted to be offered.

Rep. Coleman voted against the bill because, as with all of these Republican tax bills, HB5 would increase taxes without providing one new dime for public education or any other priority of his constituents. Any revenue generated from an increase in the cigarette tax in particular should be dedicated to dealing with the public health effects of smoking as is done in so many other states.

At this point, barring an addition to the session's call, I believe the House is more or less finished with its work until the Senate does its thing, at which point a joint committee will be named to hammer out the differences. The fun resumes tomorrow, so stay tuned.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 27, 2006 to Budget ballyhoo | TrackBack