OMAHA, Neb. ? State Sen. Bob Krist said last week that he is planning to introduce legislation in January that would require a public vote on whether to raise the state?s cigarette tax, calling the current approach by City Council ?a misuse? of the city's authority to levy occupation taxes.
Omaha.com reports that the city should be required to seek voter approval before imposing its proposed cigarette tax to help fund a university cancer center.
?A vote of the people is an important part of our obligation to insure transparency at all levels of our government,? Krist said in a letter to City Council.
State Sen. Abbie Cornett called on the Omaha City Council to make sure its projected revenues from the cigarette tax proposal are accurate. If the projections amount to $6 million a year or more, a new state law requires voter approval before the tax could be enacted. She also noted that the city?s occupation tax on restaurants and bars collected about $8 million more than initially projected, reports the news source.
Instead of initially imposing a 7% local tax on gross sales of cigarettes (based on an average per-pack price of $5.10), the City Council is now considering a 4.5% rate to help pay for a proposed $370 million cancer research and treatment center.
?If they're going to do this (cigarette tax), they better make sure the numbers are right,? Cornett told the news source, adding, ?There's been way too much of a spotlight on the city and its occupation taxes.?
Like Cornett, Krist supports the cancer center project, but he believes that the city should find another way to finance its share. His told the news source that his constituents, including convenience store operators, oppose the cigarette tax increase.