Approval appears virtually certain for a tax hike on smokes in Wisconsin. Members of the legislature’s Finance Committee are expected to decide on cigarette taxes today. Governor Jim Doyle wants a 75 cent increase, something Wisconsin Grocers Association President Brandon Scholz says that’ll hurt his members.
“They’ve closed their eyes to the problems it (the cigarette tax) causes for retailers,” charges Scholz. “For retailers on the border, you’ve got competition from other states. For brick and mortar retailers around the state, people are selling them on the Internet and they’re not getting chased down (to pay the state tax). And if you’re competing with a tribal smoke shop, because they get a whole bunch of that money back from the state, that put retailers at a disadvantage.”
The 75 cent increase, which is expected to be approved, would make Wisconsin’s cigarette tax among the highest in the nation at $2.52 a pack. “People that choose to smoke, this is gong to hurt them the most,” says Scholz. “For those folks, middle class, poor people, people on fixed income, they’re the people who are going to get hurt the most.” Scholz adds that whether smoking is bad for people or not, “it’s a personal choice.”
John Colbert, WIBA