Illinois legislators are looking to smokers to help save Medicaid, the state's health care system for the poor. Governor Pat Quinn had said Illinois needed to fill a 2 point 7 billion dollar hole to prevent the system from collapsing. Legislators have met that goal. Part of that savings will come from cuts to programs, which legislators approved last week. Tuesday legislators sent the Governor the second main component; an dollar-a-pack increase in the state tax on cigarettes. Critics like Senator Mike Jacobs, a Democrat from Moline, says smokers in border towns like his will just stop shopping in Illinois:
"Living on the border, I've noticed that Illinois' cigarette tax is 98 cents. And if we increase this to a $1.98, how do you think we'll compare with Missouri, whose tax is 17 cents. Will people go across the river to get their cigarettes, or will they leave their buck 71 on the table and say 'I don't want that?"
The measure also increases the tax on other cigarette products, like cigars. Advocates say the hike will be incentive for smokers to quit.
Support Your Public Radio Station