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As tax increases take effect, shoppers dig deeper

By Meghan Cooke
Customers at Tobacco Discount on South Main Street had to pull out some extra cash to pay for their purchases Tuesday.
Tuesday marked day one of the state’s new tax increases.
Excise taxes rose about 5 cents per six-back of beer and about 4 cents per bottle of wine. The excise tax on liquor increased 5 percent.
The cigarette tax is now 45 cents per pack, an increase of 10 cents.
In April, the federal cigarette tax increased from 39 cents to $1.01.
Joel Peanut, of Salisbury, visits Tobacco Discount every week to buy two packs of Black & Milds.
But starting this week, the cost of his weekly purchase will increase.
“If it gets much higher than that, I’ll quit smoking, I believe,” he said as he walked out the door.
The so-called “sin taxes” aren’t the only ones to see increases. Starting Tuesday, the state sales tax increased by one penny, bringing the sales tax rate to 7.75 percent in Rowan and 90 other counties. At 8.25 percent, Mecklenburg County has the highest rate in the state.
The increases, which are supposed to be temporary, are set to expire in July 2011.
Naticha Murray, of Salisbury, said the tax increases don’t make any sense.
“The economy is already down,” she said. “This is hurting a lot of us.”
The increases follow a tumultuous General Assembly session in which legislators struggled to assemble a budget to deal with the troubled economy.
N.C. Rep. Lorene Coates, a democrat who represents the 77th House District, voted in favor of the tax increase.
“If we hadn’t voted for that, it would have cut education a lot,” Coates said.
She said she felt that legislators made many cuts to prevent even higher tax increases.
“I know things are difficult,” she said. “It was not easy.”
On Monday, customers were lined up out the door of Tobacco Discount to buy tobacco products before the increase went into effect.
Between recent legislation to ban smoking on state property and federal and state tax increases, this has been a hard year for smokers in North Carolina, said Shane Allman, an employee of Tobacco Discount.
“They keep kicking and kicking and kicking,” he said.
Lou Ann Allman, manager of the store, said the increases burden an already declining business.
“There would be no North Carolina without tobacco,” she said.
At the ABC store on West Innes Street, employees have been working since Friday to change the price stickers for each bottle of liquor.
“What happened to $2.14?” asked one customer after the cashier calculated his purchase.
The man, who asked not to be identified, was about a dime short.
“A lot of people are going to be surprised when they walk in here,” he said.


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