Walker Vetoes Tobacco-Use Surcharge


Governor Scott Walker has vetoed a tobacco-use surcharge for public workers that he had included in the budget in February.

Walker proposed the $50 monthly tobacco-use surcharge for state employees as a way of offsetting the higher medical costs associated with smoking. Several months later, Walker has vetoed the proposal in its entirety.

Walker said in his veto message that his original plan was drawn up before the federal government spelled out guidelines for these types of surcharges. Walker said once those guidelines emerged, they were onerous, and would have made Wisconsin’s tobacco surcharge too costly.

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Walker’s veto was welcome news to Maureen Busalacchi from the anti-smoking group Health First Wisconsin. Busalacchi says that because people have to pay these surcharges retroactively, they’re not as effective as a tobacco tax.

Busalacchi: “Our goal is to make sure that people quit using tobacco, and that policy wouldn’t necessarily lead to that. That’s why cigarette taxes and taxes on other tobacco products are so effective because it’s at point of purchase versus a random bill that you get on a monthly basis.”

The governor said in his veto message that federal guidelines would have let people opt out of the monthly surcharge if they participate in a tobacco cessation program. He says that would have cost the state more, and people still would not have to necessarily stop smoking.