Kansas Considers "Sin" Taxes

KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- It's been 16 years since Kansas lawmakers last raised cigarette taxes. Now lobbyists for cigarettes and alcohol once again thwarted efforts to raise taxes on their products in the last legislative session.

But with the state falling deeper in the budget hole every day, they know they must redouble their efforts in the session that starts next month, according to the Kansas Journal-World.

"We're aware of the potential that is out there for an increase in cigarette taxes in Kansas," said John Singleton, director of public affairs for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. in Winston-Salem, N.C.

"It's going to be a rerun of the debate (from last session)," said R.E. "Tuck" Duncan, executive secretary of the Kansas Wine and Spirits Wholesalers Association.

The state faces a $426 million budget deficit that without new taxes will require cuts in spending on public schools, universities, social services, highways and public safety, the report said.

State gallonage taxes on beer, wine and alcohol have not increased since 1977; the last tax change for alcoholic beverages was in 1983 when an enforcement tax of 8 percent on alcohol sales was established. The state's 24-cent per pack tax on cigarettes is 16 years old.

Last session, some lawmakers unsuccessfully sought to increase funding for public schools through an increase in taxes on alcoholic beverages and tobacco products. The tobacco and alcohol lobbies went to work, telling lawmakers the tax proposals would unfairly hit low and middle class Kansans and hurt small businesses, such as bars, restaurants and liquor stores.

Duncan, with the wine and spirits group, said the industry will argue that the budget problem is just too big to fix by targeting one or two industries.
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