With the state preparing to tax roll-your-own cigarette machines the same way it taxes retail cigarettes come July 1, thanks to law passed by the state legislature earlier this year, a recently-filed lawsuit in Franklin County aims to prevent that from happening.
Filed Thursday by a resident of Washington, a Benton County tobacco retailer and the Ohio-based RYO Machine LLC, the lawsuit argues that the roll-your-own cigarette tax set to take effect in Washington is, in essence, a tax increase, and therefore should have been subject to the required two-thirds majority vote to pass as laid out by Tim Eyman's voter-approved Initiative 1053. The lawsuit seeks to prevent the roll-your-own cigarette tax from taking effect.
As is noted by a blog post by The News Tribune in Tacoma, "Roll-your-own machines let customers produce a carton of cigarettes for about half the cost of what they'd pay for those sold at retail stores."
Proponents of the new tax say it simply closes a loophole in the existing law. Of course, it's also estimated that the roll-your-own cigarette tax will bring in $12 million this coming year, helping to fill the state's reported $1 billion budget gap, making it all the more appealing to lawmakers.
In April, Tim Eyman told Seattle Weekly that the roll-your-own cigarette tax was passed in bad faith by the legislature and is a violation of I-1053. He said the tax, which he classifies as "new," will foster further challenges to the initiative.
State Senator Pam Roach has also expressed concern about the roll-your-own cigarette tax, penning an email to the state's Attorney General's office seeking an informal opinion on whether the roll-your-own cigarette tax included in Washington's new budget qualifies as a new tax. Much like Eyman's point of view, Roach's note to the state attorney general's office expresses concern that the roll-your-own cigarette tax is a violation of I-1053, and that the move will inspire future violations of the voter-approved initiative.
Find the lawsuit filed yesterday in Franklin County on the following page ...