Lawmaker calls for rise in cigarette tax to help fund Medicaid
A bill has been introduced that would increase the sales tax on cigarettes to the national average and allocate the revenue to Medicaid ... and one of the legislature’s most conservative delegates is calling for tighter regulations on abortion clinics.
Democratic Delegate David Englin of Alexandria is the chief co-patron of a bill that would increase the tax on a pack of cigarettes from 30 cents to $1.45, which Englin says is closer to the national average.
Englin: In doing that, it would bring in about 400 million dollars a year that we would use to fund Medicaid reimbursements for doctors, because we have a crisis where doctors are in a position where they can’t afford to take poor patients and so poor people are losing access to health care and it would take 52 percent of the revenue that comes in and it would put that towards the M.R. waivers, which are, basically, they're Medicaid waivers that allow people with severe intellectual and developmental disabilities to receive community-based services and community-based services are far less costly than institutionalizing someone and on top of that, the Supreme Court has said that people have a civil right to receive services in the community and not be institutionalized.
Englin acknowledges that passage of the bill will be an uphill battle in the Republican-controlled House of Delegates, who have not looked favorably upon tax increases for tobacco in previous sessions.
Englin: It’s counterintuitive, but health care, unlike many other areas, when you cut spending you actually raise costs, so when you put money into it, you actually lower costs, because what happens is, when you provide basic care for poor people, they get the primary care that they need without ending up in the emergency room, which is far more costly. If they don’t have access to care, they still get sick. They just then get care through the emergency room, which costs many, many times more and that’s money that you and I as taxpayers end up having to pay either way, so by raising the state sales tax on cigarettes up to the national average and putting more money into the Medicaid system, what we're actually doing is reducing the overall financial burden on taxpayers. And when you make those fiscal arguments as to why this is the fiscally prudent thing to do as good stewards of taxpayer money, I’m hopeful that we can win some support.
Republican Delegate Bob Marshall of Prince William has been a long-time staunch opponent of abortion. At a Capitol Square rally yesterday with over 150 anti-abortion activists, he urged Governor Bob McDonnell to impose additional regulations on abortion clinics in Virginia.
Marshall: He could issue today the regulations that we’re talking about, the Attorney General, Cuccinelli, said he could issue, because they’ve been sustained in this circuit, to regulate those abortion clinics and seventeen of them are so pathetically run that they would be put out of business. This has been acknowledged by the proponents of so-called safe legal abortion in this state, Planned Parenthood and NARAL and the like. Now the original rationale, or one of them, for making abortion legal was, quote, “back alley abortions are unsafe.” Well, now storefront abortions are unsafe by the admission of the abortionists. The Governor has the authority. I think he needs to act.
Later in the day, Governor McDonnell said the issue of further regulations on abortion clinics should be implemented through legislation and not executive action.
McDonnell: I have been a strong advocate for the pro-life position through my 18 years in office and will continue to be. I support a bill to make sure that all outpatient surgery centers are treated exactly the same, whether it’s an abortion clinic or any other kind of clinic. I think what people may not understand is how the regulatory process works. I appoint the boards. I don’t direct the boards on what to do, and of course, this board is made up primarily of Governor Kaine appointees, so there’s some other political realities as well.
Legislation like the Governor describes has repeatedly failed to pass in previous sessions in the Senate.
Craig Carper, WCVE News, Capitol Square