Thursday, Jan. 20, 2011 | 12:02 a.m.
CARSON CITY — Health advocates want higher taxes on tobacco and contractors seek an increase on the gasoline tax.
The proposals are surfacing as the Nevada Legislature gets ready to open Feb. 7 and fly in the face of Gov. Brian Sandoval’s pledge to veto any tax increases.
The American Lung Association says Nevada gets low grades in its efforts to discourage tobacco use and help smokers quit.
The association says it’s time to raise the cigarette tax to pay for programs such as stopping young people from smoking.
Sen. Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, said she has agreed to introduce a bill for the Tobacco Coalition to raise the tax on a pack of cigarettes from 80 cents to $2. The tax on other tobacco products would be boosted from 30 percent of the wholesale price to 60 percent.
Leslie, as chairwoman of the Senate Revenue Committee, said she would provide a hearing for advocates to present their views.
Amy Beaulieu, head of the lung association’s Las Vegas office, said Nevada ranks near the bottom in comparison with other states on its programs to stop smoking and to treat those afflicted.
“Our state’s cigarette tax is extremely low, and the number of kids who smoke is too high,” she said.
The tobacco industry is targeting kids in a drive to replace dying customers, she said. “These tactics ranged from color-coding packaging in order to falsely claim less harmful cigarettes, to pitching smokeless tobacco in order to get more young people hooked,” she said.
A report card by the National Lung Association gives Nevada an “F” for state funding for tobacco control programs.
Beaulieu pointed out that Nevada’s share of a national tobacco settlement for tobacco cessation programs was “swept away” by the Legislature to solve budget shortfalls in state government.
The state received a “B” grade for where smoking is prohibited. The association noted that smoking is prohibited in bars that serve food but is still allowed in casinos.
The Building Jobs Coalition of Nevada, meanwhile, wants to index fuel taxes for inflation, which would increase price at the pumps about 9 cents a gallon over three years in Clark County, spokesman Jeremy Aguero said. The additional proceeds would be used for government construction projects.
Washoe County already has its gas tax indexed.
Aguero said the plan also calls for returning to local governments the property tax for capital improvements taken by the Nevada Legislature in 2009 to balance the state’s budget.
He said that would put an estimated 9 cents of the property tax back in the capital improvement funds of local governments.
The building coalition, which represents the construction industry, says that in the past year, the industry has shed 20 percent of its workforce or 14,700 jobs.