Missouri would reap economy-wide benefits as well as tax revenue if the Illinois legislature successfully passes a $1 per-pack cigarette tax (“Madigan calls on Legislature to return for pension issue,” May 21). The tax hike would make Illinois’ per-pack tax nearly 12 times that of Missouri’s lowest-in-the-nation cigarette tax. Customers flocking to Missouri for cheaper cigarettes probably would spend money on other things, too.
A cigarette tax hike would take more money from the pockets of Illinois’ most financially stressed citizens and punish local businesses in order to prop up an increasingly expensive government. Down the road, as cigarette sales and tax revenue fail to keep up with the state’s estimates, as they inevitably do, all Illinois taxpayers would be left to fill the void.
Instead of using tax hikes to address the budget deficit, Illinois lawmakers should look at a more long-term fix by implementing true spending reforms. If they fail to do so, Missouri will continue to benefit from Illinois’ bad fiscal policies.
John Nothdurft — Chicago Budget and tax legislative specialist, The Heartland Institute.
This letter to the editor was originally published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.