February 16, 2008

Florida Governor Charlie Crist
Florida House of Representatives
Florida State Senate
Dear Governor Crist and Members of the Florida Legislature,
As you know, House Bill 11, proposed by State Representative Waldman (D-Coconut Creek), would hike the cigarette tax by $1.00 a pack. A dollar hike is said to raise an additional $1 billion. Also, in this bill are misleading attempts to call this tax hike a user fee.
First, this is a tax hike being proposed in HB 11. Though it is called a user fee, it is really a tax increase and a vote for this bill would be a violation of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge.
Secondly, evidence from other states proves that this tax hike will do little to address the state’s current raise extra revenue in Florida. After New Jersey raised the cigarette tax just 17.5 cents in 2007, the state lost $24 million in tobacco tax revenue from consumers who sought cheaper products across state lines or from other venders.
A cigarette tax would not fix budget problems.  These budget problems are caused by overspending in the government, a trend that has been seen nationwide. The way to attack these tough economic times are through cuts in government spending and cuts in taxes, in turn putting money back in the hands of the American people who run this economic engine.
Lastly, this is not a user fee. To qualify as a user fee, by definition:
-the charge must be funding a specific service with no excess going into a general fund;
-the charge must be paid only by those who use that specific government service;
-individuals must have the choice whether to purchase the service from the government (and thus pay the fee) or to purchase the service from a private business.    
This tax being proposed does not satisfy any of these conditions let alone all of them. HB 11 is a failed attempt to disguise a tax as a “user fee.”
It is critical to revitalize the Florida economy with tax cuts, not tax increases.  We must lift the burden of larger government from the backs of hardworking taxpayers and consumers instead of furthering depressing economic activity. I urge you to stand up for taxpayers and oppose all tax increases. If you have any questions, please contact Kelly Cobb or Nathan Pick, state affairs managers, at (202) 785-0266.
Grover Norquist