Last night the state Legislature gave their approval to raising the tax on cigarettes by 62 cents per pack. The increase is largely meant to do one thing - provide more money for education. Democrat Senator Jim Kyle sent an email out late last week noting that the new revenues would increase the state portion paid for the BEP funding formula for schools from 65 to 75 percent.
"By increasing state funds and reducing local government funds, your local government benefits tremendously. Home owners should expect and should demand lower property tax payments in the future because their local government will have a smaller obligation on its largest budget item.
"What does this say about the Tennessee Senate? What does this say about Democrats and Republicans? I would say that it speaks volumes as to who can be trusted to lead our state. Please remember, for months Republicans said there were other ways to finance the education plan and the tobacco money was not needed, but in the end, Republicans did not fight the tax; they did not offer alternatives to the tax; they simply stood on the sidelines."
Tom Humphrey writes about the fierce battle in the Legislature, as Republicans attempted to tack on amendments to the bill, led mostly by Greeneville Republican David Hawk. Hawk wanted to earmark $100 million to go to the state's schools for construction costs. Since there are 195 school districts, the amount going to each school would have barely been a percentage of the typical costs of construction projects are in the tens of millions of dollars.
Paying more into the BEP at the state level means lower costs for funding by local governments, which typically pay for school funding increases through higher property taxes or through taxes for things like local wheel taxes. But will we actually see a local tax decrease? I sort of doubt it as local governments will likely decide they have other needs which MUST be paid for.
So smoke 'em if ya got 'em and if you can find a place that allows to smoke, and thanks for Volunteering to pay a new education tax.
Also see a wrap-up at Volunteer Voters.