Mayor Signs Tobacco Tax

Posted October 9

A week after the Omaha City Council passed the tobacco occupation tax, Mayor Jim Suttle signed it. He did so surrounded by supporters of the project where the money will go -- the future site of the UNMC Cancer Complex.

Mayor Suttle was joined by cancer survivors, doctors, architects and some city council members.

For Erin Krumland, whose son is a cancer survivor, the new center will provide services for people just like her. "I think for the little ones especially it was very difficult to start one treatment at one hospital and get close to them and have to switch. So I just I think this is a wonderful idea and I think that these patients deserved it more than anything."

UNMC wants to have the center open by 2016.

The city of Omaha will collect 3% on the tobacco sold in the city limits for the next decade. It's expected to generate -- at a minimum -- of $35-million.

The tobacco tax takes effect January 1, 2013.

Posted October 8

Tuesday afternoon will be a celebration for those involved with plans for the UNMC cancer complex. Mayor Suttle has arranged for a signing ceremony across the street from the site.

UNMC Chancellor Harold Maurer, NMC CEO Glenn Fosdick, Tim Holland with Holland Basham Architects along with the five council members (Jerram, Gray, Gernandt, Mulligan, Festersen) who voted for the project with be participating.

The $370-million cancer research and treatment center will be built next to the Durham Research Center towers.

On the eve of the ceremony, tobacco store owners are still trying to undue the ordinance.

"It's real easy to pick on tobacco," said Bob Wagner who runs the Tobacco Outlet at 76th & Cass.

Omaha tobacco buyers will be paying 3% more which is expected to raise $35-million for the project over the course of the next 10 years.

Wagner: "When those sewer projects come due or when the pensions come due -- they can't go back to tobacco. So where are they going to go? They'll go after property taxes -- maybe carbonated sugar products."

UNMC has said there was an obvious connection between smoking and cancer -- and said it moved quickly to keep the costs down on a breakthrough facility.

At 72nd and Q is an intersection critics of the tobacco tax use as an example of the inherit unfairness of this. On the Omaha side is the Speedy Mart. But right across the street is a Kwik Shop and that's Ralston over there. You can almost picture the signs in the grassy area come January 1 -- 'You don't have to pay the 3% tobacco tax here!'

"This is a misuse of the occupation tax," said state Senator Bob Krist who vows to clarify the law when the legislature convenes January 9.

By then -- tobacco users will have been paying the new tax for more than a week.

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