- Associated Press - Thursday, February 16, 2017

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - A Senate committee killed a bill Thursday that would have raised the state tax on cigarettes by 30 cents a pack and helped offset some of the state revenue being lost from the energy industry downturn.

House Bill 151 failed on 3-2 vote in the Senate Revenue Committee on Thursday after one committee member, Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, switched his vote to “no” when the initial vote had the bill passing. The bill had passed the state House on a close vote earlier.

Wyoming now levies a tax of 60 cents per pack, raising about $20 million a year in state and local tax revenue. The bill would have raised the tax to 90 cents, adding about another $10 million a year. The state would have received nearly $8 million of the increase.

Some state lawmakers turned to a cigarette tax increase as a way of helping to cope with the huge losses in oil, coal and natural gas state tax revenue.

The state uses its revenue from the cigarette tax to help pay for various health-related programs, such as substance abuse treatment, that are getting more expensive every year, according to Rep. Mike Madden, who sponsored the bill.

“Every little bit helps and especially when we’re looking at these kind of costs we have in the health department this would have done some good,” Madden, R-Buffalo, said.

However, representatives of retailers and taxpayers, testified Thursday against the tax increase.

Mark Larson, executive director of the Colorado Wyoming Petroleum Marketers Association, said convenience stores that get a lot of business from selling cigarettes, especially to people in neighboring states that have higher cigarette taxes than Wyoming, will lose customers if the tax is raised.

“The convenience stores in this state … will be damaged, we will be harmed,” Larson said.

Buck McVeigh, executive director of the Wyoming Taxpayers Association, said the cigarette tax is regressive and unfairly targets one segment of the population.

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