Kansas Retailers Blast "Sin Tax"

TOPEKA, Kan. -- Kansas lawmakers consider it the plan most likely to pass the Senate -- if any tax increase will. But the Assessment and Taxation Committee heard plenty of criticism yesterday about raising tobacco and alcohol taxes from retailers and lobbyists for several trade groups.

Opponents said the tax increases would hurt sales in convenience stores and even cost Kansas jobs in a slumping economy.

Thomas Palace, executive director of the Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association, said cigarettes account for almost a quarter of his members' gross sales and that increasing the cigarette tax could push consumers into neighboring states.

The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States estimated that the state would lose $60 million in sales and 1,000 jobs because of the higher alcohol taxes.

And Frances Kastner, lobbyist for Kansas Food Dealers Association, told the committee: "If our members can't be competitive in the market place and lose sales, it becomes an expensive proposition for the state and local government."

Health advocates have rallied behind proposals to increase the cigarette tax, seeing it as a way to reduce smoking.

The proposal before the tax committee was drafted by Chairman David Corbin (R-Towanda) and is supported by GOP senators, the report said. The proposal would increase the cigarette tax by 35 cents a pack, making it 59 cents. The tax on a 12-pack of Budweiser retailing for $8.59 would increase about 15 cents.
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