Make no mistake, new cigarette tax will not be due to COVID (Opinion)
Tuesday, Gov. Phil Murphy is unveiling a budget in the middle of a pandemic that saw a devastating state shutdown that brought about a tremendous fiscal shortfall. It was shocking that the State Supreme Court gave him the go-ahead to borrow up to $9.9 billion without the constitutionally required voter approval. Of that he’s expected to borrow $4 billion.
The financial hole created by the state shutdown should have brought massive spending cuts. But that would mean state workers biting the bullet and that’s part of Murphy’s base so he wouldn’t do the responsible thing. Among his plans to borrow and tax our way out of this you’ll be hearing about a tax hike on cigarettes of $1.65 per pack.
This will tie us with the states with the highest cigarette tax in the nation. It will go from $2.70 per pack to a tax of $4.35 per pack. But this has nothing to do with the budget shortfall due to the pandemic.
This was his plan all along.
Back in February, before the the first case of coronavirus, James Cai, was announced on March 4, Murphy already was proposing this. Before we ever knew what was to come, before we knew businesses would shut down left and right in late March, his budget greed for a cigarette tax hike was on record.
So if any rhetoric occurs in the next month tying the two together just know it’s a false narrative. When proponents talk about the COVID-19 health crisis and tie it in with a tax hike for the health benefits of New Jerseyans, just remember the two had nothing to do with one another. This was going to happen regardless of the pandemic.
Is it fair? That’s for you to decide. But smokers are an easy target. They’re talked about in terms of being ‘filthy’ and ‘rude’ and have been banned from more places than I can count. But man the government still loves that money! A $1.65 hike bringing the tax to $4.35 per pack will tie us with New York and Connecticut. Only the District of Columbia is higher at $4.50.
In case you lose perspective living in the northeast, it’s not this way everywhere. Michigan is $2.00. Nevada is $1.80. North Carolina is $0.45. Georgia is $0.37.
Just like property taxes, this will put us among the highest in the nation. Because as always, New Jersey politicians don’t want to make the tough decisions.
The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Jeff Deminski. Any opinions expressed are Jeff Deminski's own.