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Bills would double cigarette, liquor taxes

Geoff Dornan / Nevada Appeal

CARSON CITY ” The Assembly Taxation Committee on Tuesday looked at two bills, which would more than double cigarette and liquor taxes in Nevada.

AB255 by Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, would raise the state’s per-pack tax on cigarettes from 80 cents to $1.80. That would be on top of the increase scheduled to take effect April 1 raising the federal per-pack levy from 39 cents to $1.01.

Between the two, that would add $1.62 to the price of a pack of cigarettes and raise total taxes on each pack to $2.81. Coupled with a recently announced increase by the tobacco companies, that would send the cost of a pack of cigarettes to more than $6.

According to Leslie, the increase would raise about $120 million a year for health care programs for women and poor children.

“I’m sick and tired of not being able to fund essential health programs,” she said.

Leslie added that, if the high price forces some people to quit smoking, that’s a good thing in her mind.

Bernie Anderson, D-Sparks, sponsored AB277, which sharply raises alcohol taxes in Nevada.

Beer and other malt beverages would increase from 16 to 69 cents per gallon ” 330 percent. The tax on wine would rise from 70 cents a gallon to $1.77 and hard liquor from $3.60 a gallon to $7.87.

Those increases, according to the Taxation Department fiscal note, would raise $121 million over the biennium which Anderson said would be split between drug and alcohol treatment programs and the job of DNA testing the backlog of biological samples collected from convicted felons in the state. Anderson said it makes sense to collect money from alcohol sales to pay for treatment programs. He said including the DNA testing as a use for the money is also valid because “the abuse of alcohol leads to many of these (criminal) problems.”

Advocates said existing treatment programs are underfunded and have for years lacked a stable source of revenue to support them.

Opponents to both bills said they agree with the goals Leslie and Anderson have in mind but disagree that cigarettes and liquor taxes should be the source of the revenue needed. Stephanie Shaw of Anheuser-Busch said the alcohol tax would have a ripple effect that could cost more than 600 jobs.

in the state. Liquor distributors testified their business is already down some 15 percent.

The committee took no action on the bills.


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