Oregon Pushes for State Cigarette Tax Increase To Fund Children's Health Care

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The Healthy Kids Oregon coalition on Thursday launched a campaign in support of a state ballot measure that would increase cigarette taxes to provide health care for more than 100,000 Oregon children that are without health insurance, the Oregonian reports. The group has raised approximately $700,000 in cash and commitments for the campaign, which is urging voters to support Measure 50 in the Nov. 6 election, according to campaign manager Carol Butler.

The ballot measure would amend the state constitution to increase cigarette taxes by 84.5 cents per pack. The measure would generate an estimated $153 million from 2007 to 2009 and $233 million from 2009 to 2011. Democratic lawmakers this year were unable to secure a three-fifths majority in the state Legislature, which was needed to pass legislation to raise the tax, but there were enough votes to put it on the ballot as a constitutional measure.

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Lobbyist Mark Nelson, whose clients include the tobacco industry, said if cigarette makers "decide to oppose [the measure], they'll form a political action committee and file with the secretary of the state." He added that the tobacco industry objects to how the funds would be used, as well as the constitutional amendment. "I don't know of any time in the country we've had a tax on a single product and put it in the constitution," Nelson said.

Coalition members include the American Cancer Society; the American Heart Association; the American Lung Association; Oregon PTA; Children First for Oregon; several unions; and physicians, nurses and other health care advocates (Graves, Oregonian, 8/10).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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