Friday’s editorial encourages the legislature to use an increase in cigarette taxes to pay for Medicaid spending.
Here we are again.
Two years ago, the S.C. House of Representatives and the S.C. Senate passed a law raising the cigarette tax by 50 cents, but Gov. Mark Sanford’s veto was (back then) too much for the legislature to overcome, and the effort was for naught.
Now, the House and the Senate have again each passed a cigarette-tax increase, but before the bill can brave Sanford’s desk once more, lawmakers must first decide how much to raise the tax.
The House version raises the tax by 30 cents per pack, raising an estimated $88 million that must be spent on health care costs and could not be used until next year. The Senate would raise the tax by 50 cents per pack to raise $129 million annually, and would likewise dedicate most of the money (except about $11 million for a few pet legislative projects) to a trust fund to pay for expected increases in the state’s share of Medicaid as a result of new federal health care laws.
First, a word about those new
Medicaid expenses. S.C. politicians, in their continued “
That amount (which is a worst-case
scenario, assuming everyone eligible signs up) represents a 4.4 increase in the
state’s projected $20.9 billion in Medicaid spending over 10 years under
current law. In other words,
Nevertheless, the increase must be paid for, and our lawmakers have the right idea – the cigarette tax should be used to prepare for that increase. The Senate’s 50 percent proposal appears to cover that cost over the 10 years, with a little room left over. Whatever is not needed for Medicaid would be well-suited to shoring up the general fund.
Finding a legislative compromise,
of course, is only the first step.
The amount the tax brings in will
likely dwindle as some smokers quit, but some of that revenue can help preserve
vital state services – keeping jailers, state troopers and teachers employed –
during the immediate crisis. We hope
A reform of our own
If our various politicians’
ill-advised efforts to kill the health care bill fail as expected –
specifically, Henry McMaster’s lawsuit, Andre Bauer’s call for a constitutional
convention or Jim DeMint and Lindsey Graham’s quixotic campaign for repeal –
Newly elected Sen. Scott Brown is
already proposing this for