After his cigarette tax proposal was snubbed in committee last week, Utah Senator Allen Christensen is trying to sweeten the deal. In an effort to raise the tax on cigarettes from 69.5 cents to $2 a pack, Christensen has proposed $50 million in earmarks hoping that other legislators will get on board. Christensen hopes to capitalize on Utah’s budget cuts, planning to supplement cuts with revenue that would be generated from the proposed cigarette tax.

Here is a laundry list of Christensen’s proposed earmarks
·        $10 million » for public education
·        $10 million » for higher education
·        $5.5 million » for Medicaid restricted account
·        $4 million » to reimburse county jails that house state inmates
·        $3.2 million » for prenatal services for low-income women
·        $3 million » to offset Utah small-business impacts
·        $2 million » for Department of Corrections
·        $2 million » for University of Utah dental school
·        $1.5 million » for foster care program
·        $1.5 million » for New Century Scholarship fund
·        $1 million » for University of Utah Medical School
·        $1 million » to ease backlog of those waiting for disability assistance
·        $1 million » for immunization
·        $1 million » for local health departments
·        $800,000 » for toxicology testing at the Health Department
·        $250,000 » for Utah’s Own business development
·        $232,000 » for the Office of Recovery Services
·        $200,000 » to draw matching money for sportsmen programs
·        $150,000 » for National Guard scholarships
·        $140,000 » for adult protective services
·        $100,000 » for signs at Utah borders about tobacco impacts
Utah Pledge Signer Rep. John Dougall said that “it seems like a very poor tax policy and it seems like a corrupt process.” It is alarming that Christensen is desperate to see his bill pass. What started out as an attempt to deter smoking has turned into a vendetta. But the most alarming thing about this is Christensen’s spending that is attached to this supposed $50 million revenue that will be raised from cigarette taxes. ATR has shown again and again and again that raising excise taxes will bring in less revenue (it also doesn’t help that if Utah passed the tax, 5 out of Utah’s 6 bordering states would reap the benefits of smokers crossing state lines for cheaper smokes). Forbes has recently dubbed Utah as one of the financially healthiest state, but gambling $50 million on a tax hike on cigarettes is irresponsible and a burden to taxpayers of the Beehive State.