A Democratic state lawmaker called Senate President John Cullerton’s proposal to raise Illinois’ usage tax on tobacco products “too unreasonable” at a time when the General Assembly is considering a slew of other tax hikes.
Cullerton announced last week he wants to increase the state’s tax on a pack of cigarettes by $1, to $2.98. That is about triple the 32 cents Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker introduced in his budget proposal.
The Senate president’s initiative would also include a 64 percent bump on the wholesale price of other tobacco products, including cigars, chewing tobacco and snuff.
But Rep. Thaddeus Jones, from Calumet City, said that plan would turn Illinois into a “job creator” for surrounding states.
“I appreciate President Cullerton for his advocacy, but this is the wrong way to go. We’ve gone through several phases of taxing cigarettes that now is driving businesses and driving people away from Illinois and driving them to border states, and we’ve got to stop it,” Jones said. “It’s not having the effect that the president wants. It’s not stopping people from smoking. What it’s doing is making people in my community who can least afford it, who are on a fixed income, choose to go to Indiana to make sure they get cigarettes.”
His constituents are already travelling to Indiana to get gas and groceries, he said. Some purchase tobacco products there as well.
That is an argument Cullerton addressed at a news event last week.
“But what we also know is that other states then see what we do and then they can go and change their own rate, their own laws,” he said at the time. “And so, it has somewhat of an effect, but it’s not enough of a reason to not do a statewide change in my opinion.”
Cullerton is a longtime champion of measures including Smoke Free Illinois and Tobacco 21.
According to the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability, the usage tax on cigarettes in Indiana is 99.5 cents, in Kentucky it is $1.10, in Missouri it’s 17 cents, and it’s $1.36 in Iowa. Wisconsin’s tax, at $2.52, is the only one higher than Illinois’.
But according to data from the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network, most