House OKs tax increase on cigarettes

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COLUMBIA --- Democrats in the South Carolina House declared a major victory Wednesday as they upheld a Senate plan to increase the state's cigarette tax by 50 cents and use most of the money to provide health care for low-income residents.

The Senate approved the increase earlier this month, estimated to bring in $159 million in additional taxes. The only change made in the House was setting aside $1 million to promote food grown in South Carolina.

"It's a great day!" House Minority Leader Harry Ott exclaimed after the House returned the bill to the Senate nearly intact. "We are very happy!"

Senate Finance Chairman Hugh Leatherman said the Senate would agree to the House change, which sets it up to go to the governor.

But the measure faces a steep hurdle. Gov. Mark Sanford has pledged to veto any tax increase that doesn't cut taxes equally elsewhere. Overriding the veto would take a two-thirds majority.

"We also think it's poor policy to use the money to expand Medicaid, because the cigarette tax money will at best remain steady, and will likely decrease -- while Medicaid expenditures can be expected to increase by 8 percent a year. That's in effect a guaranteed future tax increase," said Sanford spokesman Joel Sawyer.

The state's per-pack tax was last increased 31 years ago. It is now the nation's lowest at 7 cents a pack. New Jersey's is the highest at $2.58 per pack.

The measure would provide health care to an estimated 80,000 parents of children already covered by Medicaid, and help at least 30,000 more workers afford insurance through three years of premium assistance, said Mr. Ott.

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HTN007
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HTN007 05/22/08 - 02:56 am
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"It's a great day!" House

"It's a great day!" House Minority Leader Harry Ott exclaimed after the House returned the bill to the Senate nearly intact. "We are very happy!".................But the measure faces a steep hurdle. Gov. Mark Sanford has pledged to veto any tax increase that doesn't cut taxes equally elsewhere. Overriding the veto would take a two-thirds majority....................SOLUTION - replace state income tax with the cigarette tax, as the governor has suggested. Then, to get really creative, target the cigarette tax revenues to vouchers covering the poor in a law mandating everyone have health insurance, like auto insurance. Just think, the price of a pact of cigarettes could get so high that no fifteen year kid could afford to take up the filthy habit. Wouldn't that be a real tragedy?

im2kraz
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im2kraz 05/22/08 - 05:32 am
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I am an ex-smoker. If anyone

I am an ex-smoker. If anyone thinks that by raising the state sales tax on cigarettes is a way to fund Medicaid, they are sadly mistaken. Maybe it would be more appropriate to require people on Medicaid to have to work to offset the cost. Novel idea. If I want health insurance, I have to work. Raising the cost will not keep kids from buying cigarettes. "Hypertension" must really have it out for people exercising their legal right to smoke. Why not raise the price on a six pack of beer? Now that would generate some real money. "Sin" tax is only a bandaid for the real issue. Make those who want benefits WORK for them. "Wouldn't that be a real tragedy?"

tina
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tina 05/22/08 - 07:52 am
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I think EVERYONE should share

I think EVERYONE should share in the cost of indigent care--not just the smokers. After all, there are indigents who do not smoke--they just need health care, so I really feel it's unfair to pin this on the smokers. And no, I don't smoke. I just don't think one group should carry the weight. They're just trying to appease the non-smoking holier than thoughs.EVERYONE should have to be taxed. WOULDN'T THAT BE A REAL TRAGEDY????

426Hemi
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426Hemi 05/22/08 - 10:09 am
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That's it. Charge the public

That's it. Charge the public more, to squander the money on pandering, "low-income" SLUGS!

puppy
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puppy 05/22/08 - 10:27 am
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Increase the sales tax by 1

Increase the sales tax by 1 cent so that everyone has to pay. You up the price of cigarettes, some people stop smoking, ----then you have lost tax money and in two years you will want to increase tax on something else due to the short fall and the stupid commitment government made with the money.
Government does not discontinue programs they start, they just sit around and think of another way to continue it!!!

Beach Brat
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Beach Brat 05/22/08 - 11:03 am
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Good Morning Folks, The year

Good Morning Folks, The year is 2010 and I am your new senator from the great state of SC. I am pushing a bill that I will get passed NO MATTER WHAT, OR HOW MANY OF YOU THINK IT'S A TAX. I want a 50 cent TAX on every can of cola that is sold in the state. The money should amount to $200 Billion, now I know you sent me here to uphold the laws and help with the little things like infrastructure or maybe an interstate to Myrtle Beach in case one of the pesky hurricanes were to pop up. The new TAX would go to weight loss programs and a nice bunch of dentists. we all know your overweight and have bad teeth, because you drink colas. You don't think it could happen. Hope you don't enjoy a smoke and a cola.

ListenAndLearn
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ListenAndLearn 05/22/08 - 07:19 pm
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All over the board with this

All over the board with this one. I A)Smoke B) Drink alcohol C) don't eat sweets (of ANY kind) or drink soda (of ANY kind, coffee & water if you're wondering, then beer). I'm for taxing sweets & soda. Anyone want to take a PT test with me? Doubt any of the Senators could hang. Let's go after ALL of the vices before we target a select few. I guess they know there's no argument for smoking or drinking; but where's the argument for sweets & soda? Hey, who knows, Chinese food may be next. Or McDonalds, or BK, or KFC. Not likely. If you're wondering, I don't eat fast food either.

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