“Major components of the program have gone unfunded,” Dr. Lois Keithly, director of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s Tobacco Cessation and Prevention Program, told Ford. Keithly has seen her budget slashed by $50 million from a peak of $54.3 million in 2000.
Gov. Deval Patrick in his budget message called for increasing the state’s cigarette tax by $1 per pack. The tax hike would raise $118.5 million annually — all of which would go into the general fund. Patrick also hopes to reap another $18.54 million from raising taxes on other tobacco products.
So clearly, the state’s interest is not getting smokers to quit. The state is interested in making as much money as it can from smokers’ addiction to tobacco.
This happens again and again. The gas tax was supposed to fund road maintenance and improvements. It doesn’t. Tolls on the Massachusetts Turnpike were supposed to pay for its construction. The construction bonds have been paid off, yet the tolls remain.
Now, Patrick wants to raise the state income tax to 6.25 percent while cutting the sales tax to 4.5 percent, for a net gain of $1.9 billion in annual revenues. This money, the governor says, will be dedicated to transportation improvements and education.
Does the governor really expect anyone to believe him?
Given the history of misdirection in the state’s tax policies, why should they?