Strange things happen with the legislature comes to town.
The eyebrow-raiser today is a bill by state Senator Carlos Uresti, which would raise the minimum age to buy cigarettes from 18 to 21.
See, Uresti’s bill has stalled already. It stalled because of the fiscal note on the bill, which is report they attach to all legislation which estimates for lawmakers how much a bill would cost, or how much revenue it would generate. The fiscal note on Uresti’s bill estimates that if they raised the smoking age from 18 to 21, it would cost the state about $20 million a year in lost revenue to the general revenue fund from cigarette taxes.
The methodology used to estimate the loss of state revenue? I’m glad you asked. The Comptroller’s office says Uresti’s bill would lead to a 33 percent reduction in tobacco use by young people. That means fewer people would be buying cigarettes, and less taxes collected on those sales.
Let that sink in for a minute. Uresti’s bill has stalled because the Comptroller says the bill will accomplish exactly what Uresti hopes it will – prevent a lot of young people from smoking.
This would be the same legislature that complains of all the money they have to appropriate for public health. Ask any doctor in America if there’s one thing – ONE THING – that a person who smokes could do to improve their health, and I’m just going to make a wild-ass guess that you can figure out what they’d answer. If you still smoke, sooner or later you’ll pay with your health – and so will taxpayers, if the smoker is one of millions of Texans who depend on the public health care system.
So the same legislature which complains about all the money it takes to treat sick people, might decline to pass a bill which would reduce the number of sick people, because the legislature would rather have their money?
Never mind the little unimportant sentence at the very end of the fiscal note: “with the reduction in the use or tobacco products, there could be an indeterminate savings to the state in the future resulting from reduced health care costs.” Translation: for an investment of $20 million a year, we can make Texans healthier, and cost taxpayers less.
And that’s what passes for “conservative” around here.