Topinka supports cigarette tax increase as part of solution

Staff Writer
Aledo Times Record

Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka on Thursday said she supports a proposed cigarette tax increase for Medicaid provided that it is tied to significant spending cuts and approval of a gaming expansion bill that includes a Chicago casino and slot machines at horse racing tracks.

The proposal offered by the state fiscal officer represents a compromise in the ongoing state budget and Medicaid negotiations.

“I am not inclined to support any tax or fee increases, but can back the cigarette tax provided that critical spending cuts are made and much-needed support of the horse racing industry is passed,” Topinka said. “Our biggest problem in this state is spending, and that has to be addressed. But the reality is that increased revenue also has to be a part of balancing the budget, and this compromise accomplishes that as well.”

The Governor and members of the General Assembly have been at odds over the proposed tax and gaming expansion. Republican legislators have opposed the cigarette tax, saying the state should focus solely on spending. At the same time, Gov. Pat Quinn has said he will not support gaming expansion legislation.

But given an estimated state bill backlog of $8.5 billion and the urgent need to pass Medicaid reform legislation, Topinka emphasized the importance of finding common ground.

“This is a common sense fiscal solution,” Topinka said. “And most importantly, it will provide important spending cuts and revenue enhancements to help put the state back on track to fiscal stability.”