The issue: Some politicians are trying to raise taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products!
In recent years, many state and local governments have raised tobacco taxes to help balance their budgets or fund new programs:
-Hundreds of cities, towns, and counties also impose local cigarette excise taxes.
-Since FY 2000, federal and state governments have increased their cigarette excise tax rates more than 130 times. Numerous localities have increased local excise tax rates as well.
-More than half of the average price of a pack of cigarettes now goes to the government in taxes and other fees.
Why states and localities should not pass this law/ordinance:
-Increased tobacco excise taxes can hurt your business by driving adult tobacco consumers to other sources such as across state and municipal borders to purchase lower-priced tobacco—while there, they may purchase other retail products, such as milk, bread, and gasoline as well. This results in lost sales and revenue, not only for retailers, but also local municipalities and states.
-Cigarette and other tobacco product sales account for over 40% of all in-store sales at convenience stores nationwide, according to the National Association of Convenience Stores.
-Cigarette tax increases can create additional incentives for criminal activity, including contraband and counterfeit tobacco product trafficking.
-Cigarette sales in the U.S. continue to decline each year. This can create funding shortfalls in state and local programs that rely on cigarette tax revenues. Those revenue gaps then create pressure for additional tax increases.
-Tobacco tax increases are not the answer, especially in this economic climate. States and municipalities continue to face budget deficits, and more tobacco tax hike proposals are likely. Instead, our legislators should focus on ways to get their state budgets and spending under control.
What you can do to make a difference
-Call, write, or reach your legislators on their social media channels – tell them your story.
What you can do to REALLY make a difference:
-Publish an Op-Ed or Letter to the Editor in a local newspaper.
-Testify at a public hearing about the negative impact that this proposal will have on legitimate businesses in your state.
Not sure about speaking out publically? Thousands of small business-people do it all of the time and it works!
State legislatures across the country spend thousands of hours each year seeking public input on the public policies they are deciding. Public hearings are an important way to ensure your voice is heard and the interests of small business owners are protected by your elected officials. You cannot expect lawmakers to understand how their regulatory and legislative decisions impact your business and your local economy if you do not speak out.
Below are some resources to help you prepare to testify before your elected officials.
What to Expect When Testifying at a Public Hearing
A public hearing is an important step in the process of making laws. Below is a look at the typical process public hearings follow. Please note that the information below is a general guide and may vary legislature to legislature.
-One of the committee’s chairpersons will preside over the hearing. This lawmaker will set the rules and call speakers to testify. The speakers are typically called in the order in which their names appear on the signup sheet, but some chairpersons may alternate between supporters and opponents of the issue.
-Sit at the speaker’s desk when it is your turn to testify.
-Present your oral remarks within the announced time limits.
-When you finish, remain at the microphone for a moment in case committee members want to ask questions.
Preparing Your Testimony
Components to include in your testimony:
-Thank the chair of the committee for the opportunity to testify. Please refer to the committee chair as Madam Chair or Mr. Chairman (as appropriate).
-Introduce yourself, including your name and the company you represent.
-State the name of the bill or issue you are testifying in regards to and whether you support or oppose.
-The main body of your testimony should include details on how the proposed policy would directly or indirectly affect your business. Include facts and supporting data if available.
-Be clear and concise when asking the committee to take action on the issue.
-Arrive at least 5 to 10 minutes prior to the start of the hearing.
-Bring copies of your testimony for circulation to committee members.
-Prepare you written testimony first as this can be the longest. You may only have a few minutes to present your oral testimony, so you want to focus only on the key points of your written testimony.
-Speak respectfully, even if you disagree with their proposed policy recommendations.
-If you don’t know the answer to a question, admit it. Then ask permission to write a detailed response at a later date.
-Please give your courteous attention to other speakers, regardless of their views.
-Do not applaud or show displeasure with anyone’s remarks.
If you would like additional information, click HERE.