Gov. Beebe came out swinging at this morning’s rally for his proposed cigarette tax increase to raise $88 million to fund a statewide trauma system and other programs, suggesting he was staking his political career on passage of the tax.
“Will we burn some bridges? Yes. Will we make people mad? Yes,” he said. But, he declared, was going to do the right thing.
An estimated 500 people crammed into a small auditorium and its hallway at Arkansas Children’s Hospital to hear Beebe and the legislative leadership — House Speaker Robbie Wills and Senate President Bob Johnson — issue what amounted to a battle cry against the tobacco lobbyists, who’ve been coming down hard on the membership and robo calling smokers to stop the 56 cents-per-pack tax.
House Bill 1204 to fund the health programs was introduced this morning; Wills said he had more than 24 co-sponsors. It will take three-fourths of the House and three-fourths of the Senate to pass the bill.
“Do you know how hard it is to get [those votes]?” Beebe asked the crowd. It was a rhetorical question.
-- Leslie Newell Peacock
John Williams has more on the Legislative Beat.