Transcript: White House officials on early childhood education & the tobacco tax proposed in the FY2014 budget

Edited by Jenny Jiang

Partial transcript of remarks by White House officials on early childhood education & the tobacco tax proposed in the FY2014 budget. The press briefing was held on April 10, 2013.

Question:
…Could you talk to me about how many teachers you’re expecting to add to this program especially as you’re trying to make full day versus half day kindergarten plans? How much is the cost? And also – what – I’m trying to marry the issue that this administration is trying to cut the number of people smoking with the ads and things of that nature and that increase the tax on cigarettes at the same time. So what kind of revenue are you expecting from that as you’re looking at cutting the numbers of those smoking?

Cecilia Munoz, Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council:
So we’ve done pretty detailed calculations because we know that from previous experience when you raise cigarette taxes by a certain amount, we know a couple of things. One is that we know that it has the biggest impact on youth smoking – that young people are the most sensitive to changes. So we estimate that about 233,000 young people would not choose to smoke as a result of this particular tobacco tax proposal. So we do know a little bit about how it impacts smoking, and that figures in to our calculation about the revenue that it would raise. The revenue that it raise is essentially the price tag for the early childhood proposals.

With respect to your question about the number of teachers, we don’t have that level of granularity in part because this is a federal-state partnership the way the K-12 system is a federal-state partnership. So while the federal government would be providing resources to the states and the states would have a match and providing some directions so that we can ensure what we’re providing here is a quality program – what we seek to be providing is sort of a framework that the states would then use but they would also have some flexibility with respect to how to get there. So because there’s a significant state part as well as a federal part, it’s really hard to estimate exactly the numbers of teachers that we would be talking about. But I should say that among the federal standards that we would seek to make part of this framework is to make sure that pre-K teachers are paid on the same scale as teachers in the K-12 system.

…Each state is going to make its own determinations about how best to achieve the goals of the program.

Question:
…If you as a public policy goal achieve fewer smokers, you might have a lower revenue stream 10 years out than you do now, but I would imagine the pre-K need is going to be consistent and rather predictable over many budget cycles not just 10 or 20 years. Do you have any fear that this could become a mandate that runs out of funds that you may have to in the future adjust the tobacco tax to keep pace with the need?

Cecilia Munoz, Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council:
So we have built that into the calculations. I mean, obviously our ability to predict the future is limited but we do know that there have been increases in cigarette taxes previously so we do know something about how they work, how they impact smoking and what kind of revenue we can expect and we build that into the calculations. So we believe that we’ve covered the 10-year cost of this program the way we’ve designed it.

Gene Sperling, Director of the White House National Economic Council:
When the Office of Tax Analysis or Joint Tax Committee do this – I mean, when they do their score, they do project what the impact is on behavior and adjust so that is adjusted into the score. So it’s not just a static level. So it is built into the score – their predictions of how it would actually affect usage.

Question:
On the tobacco tax, it tends to disproportionately affect the poor, who smoke more. What does the administration say to critics who say that this is a further infringement on the freedom of the American people – they don’t want to pay more taxes whether it’s on cigarettes or anything else?

Cecilia Munoz, Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council:
Well, it is true that people who don’t smoke won’t pay this tax, and it is also true that we’re doing as you’ve heard our best to help folks who are trying to quit smoking, including under the Affordable Care Act the smoking cessation programs are available as a preventive service without co-pays or co-insurance so folks will have greater support and be able to stop smoking if that’s what they choose to do.

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2 Comments on “Transcript: White House officials on early childhood education & the tobacco tax proposed in the FY2014 budget

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