Oregon Voters Reject Proposed Cigarette Tax

Published January 1, 2008

Oregon voters in November strongly opposed a measure to put into the state constitution a cigarette tax to fund children’s health insurance.

Voters in 35 of Oregon’s 36 counties rejected Measure 50, a proposal that would have raised the state’s cigarette tax 84.5 cents to $2.025 a pack. The money would have been used to fund an expansion of the state’s “Healthy Kids” program, championed by Gov. Ted Kulongoski (D).

“Taxpayers are smarter than politicians would sometimes have you believe” said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform. “They value their constitution and understand that since nobody is going to take up smoking to keep these projects afloat, the next tax hike would only be looming in the woodwork–and they don’t like that idea.”

Supporters of putting the cigarette tax into the state constitution spent the final days of the campaign going door to door in a failed attempt to rally support. They argued the tax hike would extend health insurance to 100,000 uninsured children.

Opponents pointed out government tax and health policies are discouraging smoking, which would lead to less tobacco tax revenue over time. They also argued the constitution is no place to enact tax policy.

“Our state constitution should not be cluttered with ‘sticky notes’ like the refrigerator door,” said state Rep. Linda Flores (R-Clackamas) shortly before the election. “Taxpayers deserve better than that.”

Steve Stanek