Maryland lawmakers on Tuesday announced that they will introduce legislation that would increase the state cigarette tax by $1 per pack to fund health care programs, the Baltimore Sun reports. The tax would be expected to generate more than $200 million in the first year and at least $170 million annually in subsequent years (Smitherman, Baltimore Sun, 1/24). Maryland Delegate Sheila Hixson (D) and Sen. Verna Jones (D), who plan to introduce the legislation, say the tax measure is supported by 80 of the 188 state lawmakers. However, Rick Abbruzzese, a spokesperson for Gov. Martin O'Malley (D), said the governor "is not inclined to support the tobacco tax" (Smitherman, Baltimore Sun, 1/23). State Delegate James Hubbard (D) said he and other lawmakers will push the legislation regardless of whether the governor will support it. "I know he said he's not going to initiate any new taxes," Hubbard said, adding, "That's fine. He's not going to initiate this. We're going to initiate this and put it on his desk." State Sen. Jamie Raskin (D) said, "The money we raise here we're going to be able to put into a lot of our most urgent health needs in the state and at the same time discourage smoking" (Baltimore Sun, 1/24). Opponents of the legislation, including the state Chamber of Commerce, say revenue from the cigarette tax is likely to decline over time and should not be used for health care, which has become more costly (Smitherman, Baltimore Sun, 1/23).

O'Malley's Health Agenda
In related news, O'Malley on Monday called on the Maryland General Assembly to pass a series of health care proposals by the time it adjourns in April, the Sun reports. O'Malley proposed expanding income eligibility limits for the state's SCHIP program, establishing an insurance exchange that would enable small businesses to offer employees more affordable policies and imposing a 2% tax on large nursing homes as part of a plan to improve reimbursements for Medicare provider facilities (Green, Baltimore Sun, 1/23).

"Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork/dailyreports/healthpolicy. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation . © 2005 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

Tag Cloud