Oregon Cigarette Tax Falls Short

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Oregon Cigarette Tax Falls Short

PORTLAND, Ore. -- A proposed cigarette tax increase of 84 cents per pack and an increase on the percentage paid in tax for other tobacco products (OTP) from 65 to 95 percent on wholesale price, failed to get the required number of votes -- 36 -- to pass the bill into law, the Statesman Journal reported.

House Bill 2201-B, nicknamed "The Healthy Kids Plan," was four votes short of passing. It would have raised the price per pack to the second highest in the nation, behind Washington, and fund the state's children’s health insurance program. The bill would use cigarette taxes to cover 95 percent of the estimated 120,000 Oregon children without insurance, the report stated.

The vote was not an easy one. The final tally was delayed 90 minutes when state Rep. John Lim (R-Gresham) refused to vote. "My right to speak was denied," Lim said after the House approved a motion to close debate.

However, the vote could be a minor delay in passing the legislation. A reworked children's health insurance plan could come before the Legislature this session -- or reach voters in the form of a ballot measure, according to the report.

"This is not a defeat; this is just a delay," Anna Richter Taylor, the governor's spokeswoman, told The Oregonian. "There is still plenty of time this session to get this done, and the governor is going to keep pushing this. It's something a majority of Oregon wants."

The Oregon Neighborhood Store Association (ONSA) opposed the bill by contacting legislators to discuss specific issues affecting members' businesses. The association provided talking points and information about legislators to contact.

Chris Girard, ONSA member and CEO of Plaid Pantries Inc., testified before the committee to present ONSA's concerns. After the vote was cast, Girard gave CSNews Online some insight into the issue:

“It likely will be back, but the efforts of the Oregon Neighborhood Store Association were successful in pointing out the unfairness of singling out a minority of the population -- smokers -- to fund a program that benefits all citizens and their kids.”