IN Focus: Higher taxes on gasoline, cigarettes?

INDIANAPOLIS - Questions remain about several aspects of the two-year budget plan passed by the state House of Representatives last month.

The budget passed the House 68-29, and is now in the hands of the state Senate, where some changes will likely be made over the next few weeks.

It’s a $31 billion budget proposal which includes increases for the education, Pre-K and state police budgets. It would also raise the state’s cigarette tax by one dollar per pack, an increase that is likely to be watered down by the Senate.

This past week, House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) said he would open to a sixty cent increase instead of a dollar, even though anti-smoking advocates have called for a $1.50 increase.

"Of course we’ll work closely with the Senate, and while we passed a dollar here, more than that was proposed," Bosma said. "A dollar is higher than some of our adjoining states. There's some discussion about bringing it down to 60 cents like Ohio.. we’ll make it work."

In response, Monique French with Tobacco Free Indiana issued the following statement:

An unprecedented number of Hoosier business leaders and public health experts, as well as 70 percent of voters, favor a $1.50 increase in the cigarette tax to improve health in Indiana. As House Bill 1001 moves through the legislature, we remain firm in our belief that lawmakers should raise the cigarette tax by $1.50 per pack and restore funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs to at least $35 million per year in order to meet Indiana’s health challenges and revenue needs. 

Indiana ranks near the bottom of states in every health category and faces an addiction crisis. We need to take bold action to change course. Our best chance to make a big impact on health and on the bottom line of Hoosier businesses is by increasing the cigarette tax by $1.50. Significantly raising the price of cigarettes is the single most-effective way to reduce smoking, especially among youth, and it prevents Big Tobacco from minimizing the impact of the increase through price schemes, discounts and coupons. 

See our interview with French in the video above, along with our interview with Justin Stevens from Americans for Prosperity. His group opposes the cigarette tax, and the proposed tax on gasoline, which would help pay for infrastructure projects in Indiana.

The Indiana House approved a bill that would increase the gas tax, increase vehicle registration fees, and open the door for statewide tolls on Indiana highways.

House Bill 1002, sponsored by Rep. Ed Soliday (R-Valparaiso), passed the House by a 61-36.

If it passes the state Senate, the state tax on gasoline, diesel, and other motor vehicle fuels would increase by 10 cents per gallon. It would also annually increase by one cent to adjust for inflation.

Indiana motorists would also pay an extra $15 in vehicle registration fees at the BMV. Motorists with electric cars would pay an additional $150 in fees.