Monday, March 1, 2010

Big Tobacco

Thanks, Gov! Love, Big Tobacco

Much as they have done with their customers, Big Tobacco seems to be counting on the early demise of efforts to raise the cigarette tax.
Last night, the good people at Altria Client Services, the parent company of Philip Morris, asked folks to send love to Gov. Gary Herbert for his vow to veto the tax:

The only snag is that the tobacco tax proposal has not drawn its last breath.
Last week, the folks at the Deseret News had an interview with the governor where he said this:

"I'm very reluctant to use the 'v-word' at any time. But certainly that, the veto, certainly is on the table. It's an option," Herbert said. "I've got a couple of pens already out there, greased up and ready to go."

Their headline and lead juiced it up considerably, stating that Herbet had vowed to veto the tobacco bill, and it created an understandable stir at the Capitol.
But read what he said. The veto is on the table. It's an option. And, for reasons that nobody has been able to discern, he greases his pens.
Asked about it Thursday at his monthly KUED news conference, here's what he said:

"I didn’t say I’d veto that. Just because I’ve got two veto pens does not mean I’ll veto that," he said. "I’ve not said I’m going to veto anything. … I’m not prepared to make that kind of decision."

The sponsors of the tobacco tax met with Herbert Thursday evening and both came away confident that he would sign the bill if it reaches his desk. And, as I reported last night, Senate sponsor Allen Christensen is promising his colleagues just about everything short of a pony if they'll vote for the tax bill, pointing out all the nifty programs that could be saved with the money from the cigarette tax.

There's also the simple fact that it's an election year and 70 percent of Utahns favor raising the tax to $2 per pack.

So the Altria gang may want to hold off on those "thank you" calls, at least until March 12. This story has a few more acts left to play out.

-- Robert Gehrke

Twitter: @RobertGehrke


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