Election 2012

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Too Close To Call: California Tobacco Tax Losing By Slim Margin

Tobacco tax race is too close to call (Flickr/Abdullah Najeeb)

Despite some initial news reports that an additional dollar a pack tax on cigarettes had been defeated in the state, it could be days or weeks before the final outcome is known.

On KQED’s News Fix blog Jon Brooks reports there are potentially hundreds of thousands of uncounted ballots from early and absentee voters.

The money that poured into this campaign was significant, though lopsided as we reported yesterday. Today on the California Report, Kenny Goldberg looked at how that seemed to affect the campaign:

Supporters of Prop 29 had a popular spokesman: seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong. They also had the American Lung Association, the American Cancer Association, and doctors groups pushing the measure.

With early polls showing a vast majority of Californians in favor, advocates were sitting pretty. But then tobacco companies weighed in with a massive ad campaign on TV and by mail. The ads said Prop 29 would create a new government bureaucracy, with little accountability. By late May, the ads had done their job: polls showed support for Prop 29 had plummeted.

Tobacco companies spent nearly 49 million dollars to fight Prop 29. In contrast, supporters raised about 12.3 million dollars.

California used to have one of the highest tobacco taxes in the nation. But since the state last raised them in 1998, California’s rate had fallen to 33rd.

New York State has the highest tax in the U.S. at $4.35 per pack.

Uninsured–and Still Against the Health Law

Libertarian Paul Ruffino, 55, has been looking for an insurance plan since leaving his previous job. Several insurance companies refuse to cover him because he has pre-existing conditions.

Libertarian Paul Ruffino, 55, has been looking for an insurance plan since leaving his previous job. Several insurance companies refuse to cover him because he has pre-existing conditions. (Photo: Sarah Varney)

Today marks the second anniversary of the federal health care law, and, unless you’ve been depriving yourself of news for the last several weeks, that same law will be front and center before the Supreme Court starting Monday. Here in California, uninsured Californians have a particular stake in the Court’s actions.

Madera County is a largely conservative and agricultural area where one in every three people lacks coverage. While many people say they want the Supreme Court to throw out the federal health law, I found that many there are struggling to reconcile their political views with the basic need for health insurance.

I started off in Oakhurst. Here, just a few miles from the entrance to Yosemite National Park, is the Sweetwater Steakhouse, a local watering hole where no one is shy about their opinions of President Obama’s signature initiative, including people like Joe Stern. “ObamaCare is absolutely horrible, horrible, horrible. It should struck down immediately.” Continue reading