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Supervisors make initial moves toward cigarette tax

Supervisors make initial moves toward cigarette tax

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ABINGDON, Va. — Establishing a new tax on cigarettes dominated discussions at Tuesday’s meeting of the Washington County Board of Supervisors.

On first reading, the board voted 6-1 to hold a public hearing to potentially establish a cigarette tax across Washington County.

The tax would be part of a regional tax on cigarettes in the Mount Rogers area. Such a tax has already been approved by several nearby locations that include the city of Galax; the towns of Wytheville, Hillsville, Rural Retreat, Chilhowie and Saltville; and the counties of Bland, Smyth, Grayson, Wythe and Pulaski.

Carroll County did not vote to adopt a cigarette tax ordinance, said Washington County Administrator Jason Berry.

Supervisor Saul Hernandez voted in opposition on Tuesday.

“I’m not in favor of this tax at all,” said Hernandez. “I’m certainly for the public hearing.”

Hernandez said the cigarette tax would “single out” a particular sector of the population.

Supervisor Phillip McCall expressed concern that a cigarette tax could drive tobacco customers away from Washington County and to nearby locations, where cigarettes might be sold cheaper.

People look for “cheap cigarettes,” McCall said. “It’s hard on your billfold.”

The maximum tax would be 40 cents per pack, said Berry.

“You could follow suit or do a lower rate,” Berry said.

“Washington County could charge a nickel, and everybody else charge 40 cents,” suggested Supervisor Mike Rush.

“But our rate wouldn’t have to be established until after we got to a public hearing,” said Board Chairman Dwayne Ball.

Tuesday’s action set the maximum tax rate at 40 cents per pack and called for a public hearing to be held at an upcoming Board of Supervisors meeting.

Across the region, Berry said this tax could net the Mount Rogers area as much as $1.5 million — with about $200,000 for Washington County.

Still, Berry said, “There’s always a possibility that taxes could impact business.”

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