Capitol Alert

Tom Steyer gives cigarette tax million-dollar boost

In this Sept. 25, 2013, file photo, businessman Tom Steyer talks during a meeting to announce the launch of a group called Virginians for Clean Government at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va.
In this Sept. 25, 2013, file photo, businessman Tom Steyer talks during a meeting to announce the launch of a group called Virginians for Clean Government at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va. AP

As promised, billionaire liberal benefactor Tom Steyer has made a hefty contribution to a campaign seeking to raise California’s tax on tobacco products.

Better known for his substantial spending on environmental causes, Steyer, a former hedge fund manager, made good on his promise to back the tobacco tax campaign by announcing a $1 million contribution on Thursday.

“We have a moral responsibility to stand up to tobacco companies and keep kids from becoming lifetime smokers, and we can do that by raising the tobacco tax,” Steyer said in a written statement.

The proposed $2-a-pack tax bump, which would also apply to electronic cigarettes, could spur an expensive campaign reminiscent of the drive for a 2010 tax proposal the tobacco industry spent tens of millions to defeat. The California State Council of Service Employees has already contributed $2 million in favor to this year’s effort.

An alliance of public health, labor and healthcare groups has pushed the tax increase as a tool to reduce smoking rates and to better fund Medi-Cal, California’s low-income insurance program. Revenue from the tax hike could fund higher reimbursement rates for doctors who see Medi-Cal patients.

Jeremy B. White: 916-326-5543, @CapitolAlert

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