R.J. Reynolds Tobacco on Friday filed with the Oregon state Elections Division to form the “Oregonians Against the Blank Check” committee.
Their goal is to oppose a ballot measure that would amend the state constitution to increase the state cigarette tax by 84.5 cents per pack to fund health initiatives, the Oregonian reported.
Measure 50 would generate an estimated $153 million from 2007 to 2009 and $233 million from 2009 to 2011.
Democratic lawmakers this year were unable to secure a three-fifths majority in the state Legislature, which was needed to pass legislation to raise the tax, but there were enough votes to put it on the ballot as a constitutional measure.
The initiative will be on the Nov. 6 ballot (Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, 8/14).
Most of the funding would be used to provide health care for more than 100,000 children in the state.
However, opponents say the initiative also would give lawmakers the ability to spend as much as $68 million on other health programs. J.L. Wilson, a spokesperson for the R.J. Reynolds campaign, said, “Our contention is that it’s not so much about insuring kids as it is about providing blank checks for various interest groups.”
Wilson said he expects the campaign to spend $3 million, but it might spend more. Philip Morris USA also has created a committee to oppose the measure, called the “Stop the Measure 50 Tax Hike” (Oregonian, 8/18).