Lawmakers May Go After More Tobacco Money
Getting more money from tobacco companies was on the agenda at the Capitol today. Texas gets more than $500 million a year from industry settlements made in the 1990s, but that number keeps going down as more and more Texans quit smoking.
Tobacco lawyers say the settlement payments add 50 cents to the cost of a pack of cigarettes. That’s on top of state and federal taxes of about $2.40.
Industry lawyer Monte Williams told House lawmakers that the payments are intended make good on damage done by smoking.
“It was understood by everybody involved in the negotiations that what was going on was covering health care costs, giving the state money so that the burden that the Legislature, that the governor’s office, that everybody was worried about continuing growth of health care costs attributable to tobacco products would be covered by payments from the tobacco companies,” Williams said.
Now some state lawmakers are looking at how to get non-participating tobacco companies to pay, such as Liggett Group, which makes Eve, Grand Prix and Pyramid cigarettes.
Those companies make no settlement payments to the state. Tobacco attorneys said forcing those companies to pay could raise up to $40 million in revenue.
Two bills proposed during the last legislative session would have expanded those payments, but those bills went nowhere. Members of the House Ways and Means Committee are now talking about whether to propose similar legislation when lawmakers reconvene in January.