Jump to full article: Montana Forum, 2002-04-05
Author: JOHN MORRISON / State Auditor and Insurance Commissioner
In testimony to the legislative committee, I suggested that we give tax credits to people and businesses to help them pay for health insurance. A tax credit large enough to make a difference would be very costly. I have said that one way to pay for these credits is an increase in our state cigarette tax, which is one of the nation’s lowest at 18 cents per pack.
I have proposed increasing the price of cigarettes for this reason: Eighty percent of Montanans do not smoke, yet all of us pay for the cost of treating tobacco-related illnesses in a variety of ways including taxes and higher insurance premiums. I don’t think it is fair that non-smokers in Montana have to pay many millions of dollars in health insurance premiums and taxes for the medical treatment of smokers. . .
Hill says that we really want to spend the $60 million in revenue from a tobacco tax on the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). If he truly believes this, he is misinformed. I have recommended that we use about $2 million in interest from the tobacco settlement trust to fund CHIP. This trust holds some of the money from the tobacco lawsuit that was settled several years ago. It has nothing to do with a cigarette tax. . .
Rick Hill should get his facts straight and tone down the political rhetoric. It is time to put the partisan attacks aside and work together to make health insurance affordable. -- JOHN MORRISON / State Auditor and Insurance Commissioner . .
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