Kansas lawmakers take first steps to raise taxes on alcohol and cigarettes

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MISSION, Kan. -- Kansas lawmakers are taking the first steps Wednesday morning to raise taxes on alcohol and cigarettes.

The Committee on Taxation begins two days of debate in Topeka on whether smokers and drinkers should pay more for their "sins".

While "sin" taxes are not popular with everybody, they would help lawmakers balance the budget.

According to the latest estimates, Kansas is $344 million dollars in the hole this fiscal year.
By nearly tripling the tobacco tax  from $.79 per pack to $2.86 per pack, the state could bring in an extra $81 million  a year.

The proposal would also increase liquor taxes from 8 to 12 percent, which would bring in an extra $27 million.

The extra funds would cut nearly a third of the projected deficit and help lawmakers balance the state budget.

The problem is if tobacco and liquor taxes go up, many people will just cross the state line and buy their cigarettes and beer in Missouri, where it is a lot cheaper.

Missouri has one of the lowest liquor taxes in the U.S.  and  the lowest tobacco tax in the U.S. at just $.17 per pack.

While smuggling more than a carton of cigarettes from another state is illegal, many would be willing to take that risk to save a few dollars.

The bill hearing with the Committee of Taxation begins at 3:30 Wednesday and  continues Thursday. If all goes well, it could move forward quickly for the full vote by the House.

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