Rehrmann backs tax boost on cigarettes Gubernatorial candidate's support mirrors 2 rivals'

June 02, 1998|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,SUN STAFF

Gubernatorial candidate Eileen M. Rehrmann is joining two of her chief rivals for the Democratic nomination in support of a $1.50 tax increase on a pack of cigarettes.

Rehrmann, the Harford County executive, joins Democrats Gov. Parris N. Glendening and Montgomery County insurance broker Raymond F. Schoenke Jr. in support of such an increase.

Rehrmann said yesterday that the money generated by the tax increase should be used for anti-smoking campaigns and drug treatment and prevention services, with a portion set aside to help Maryland tobacco farmers convert their land to other crops.

Maryland must take action to slow smoking by underage Marylanders and reduce the state's lung-cancer death rate, which is above the national average, Rehrmann said.

"We cannot afford to waste any more time with just lip service to this problem," she said.

A spokesman said Rehrmann supports phasing in the $1.50 increase in the state tax, which is now 36 cents a pack, over five years.

But state action would be contingent on what happens on the issue in Washington, Rehrmann said.

Congress is considering an increase in the federal cigarette tax. Rehrmann, Glendening and Schoenke have said they would support a total tax increase of $1.50 -- including both the state and federal levies.

Legislation to increase the state tax on cigarettes has died in the General Assembly each of the past two years. Two years ago, Glendening pushed the tax increase as part of his legislative agenda.

Peter Hamm, a spokesman for the Glendening campaign, said it was good to see Rehrmann "finally climb on the bandwagon."

Another Democratic candidate, physician Terry McGuire of Prince George's County, said he opposes any tax increase. The two Republican candidates, Ellen R. Sauerbrey and Howard County Executive Charles I. Ecker, also oppose any cigarette tax increase.

Pub Date: 6/02/98

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