Tobacco tax makes ballot

Assembly votes unanimously to let voters decide tax hike

Posted: Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Voters will be asked to decide in October whether or not to raise taxes on cigarettes and tobacco products.

The Juneau Assembly voted unanimously to put a proposition on the Oct. 6 general election ballot to raise city taxes on cigarettes from 30 cents a pack to $1, and taxes on all other tobacco products from 12 percent to 45 percent.

The National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence-Juneau asked the committee in July to raise taxes on cigarettes and tobacco so Juneau would be closer in line with the rest of the state.

The organization also said the increased cost of tobacco products would help prevent youth from using them.

Assembly member Johan Dybdahl was absent from the meeting. Earlier this month, he said increasing education would be a more effective way to keep children from smoking.

The tobacco tax hike would increase city revenue to $1.69 million a year from $517,800 in 2008.

Members of the Assembly debated in a subcommittee how the potential money should be spent.

Initial ballot language that earmarked money for the Rainforest Recovery Center was changed when elected officials argued that funding an alcohol treatment center with tobacco money was not appropriate.

The subcommittee decided to say the money would be spent on "health and social service needs related to substance abuse and tobacco use, prevention and cessation."

Also at Monday's meeting, the Assembly voted unanimously to place an $11.8 million bond proposal on the October ballot for renovations to Gastineau Elementary School.

Voters also will vote for a mayor, two Assembly seats and three School Board seats during the municipal election.

• Contact reporter Kim Marquis at 523-2279 or by e-mail at kim.marquis@juneauempire.com.



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