The shift from an excise tax is estimated to raise $90 million, which will be used to pay down the student loans of doctors who agree to locate in rural areas. This was a fine piece of work by Warren Chisum, with the help of an army of big-tobacco lobbyists. Chisum was operating without portfolio this session, but he is always in the middle of things in May, and this session has been no exception. He survived a barrage of points of order and passed his bill.
As I wrote in an earlier post, I wondered how many R’s could bring themselves to vote for a tax bill. The number turned out to be 25. A tobacco lobbyist told me that his side thought they had a lot more votes, but a number of R’s flaked, saying, “You didn’t need my vote to pass this.”
Here’s the list of R’s who voted to raise taxes (or, as they will spin it, to bring doctors to rural areas):
Two of the twenty-five are doctors (Shelton and Zerwas). Another twelve are rural R’s: Aycock, Chisum, Christian, Craddick, Hilderbran, Hughes, S King, Kolkhorst, Morrison, Otto, Smithee, and Swinford are rural R’s. A lot of Democrats voted with Chisum to get more money into the health care system. Some of the money will be directed to doctors who locate in underserved inner-city areas.