South Carolina - increase in cigarette tax still NOT likely..

April 1, 2010 - The Senate passed a bill raising the state's lowest-in-the-nation 7-cent cigarette tax by 50 cents late Wednesday, March 31st.

South Carolina, a tobacco-raising state, has not raised its cigarette tax since 1977 (when a pack of cigarettes cost an average of 49 cents), and is one of only four states that have not raised the tax since 1999, joining California, Missouri and North Dakota. The average cigarette tax rate in the nation, however, is $1.34 per pack, and the average cigarette tax in the nation's six tobacco-producing states is 40.2 cents per pack.

The bill faces long odds in becoming law and sparing state Medicaid programs from deep cuts. The 26-16 second reading vote came after more than five hours of debate as tax pledge signers repeatedly tried to kill the bill and supporters added an amendment that likely will kill it if Gov. Mark Sanford follows through on a veto threat.

The measure requires a final vote in the Senate and then approval in the House.
The Senate voted before heading off for an extended Easter break and won't take up the measure for a third and final reading until April 13, just two days before a big tea party and tax protest rally at the Statehouse.

South Carolina House on Wednesday night, March 17th continued their battle over the budget before wrapping up Thursday morning. House members voted 106-12 to keep a 30-cent cigarette tax increase in the budget. (South Carolina -cigarette tax, State Superintendent of Education Jim Rex speaks up..)

The proposal would generate $123 million for Medicaid programs, $5 million for efforts to curb smoking and $1.5 million for cancer research. It also sets aside cash for rural infrastructure along the I-95 corridor and money for agriculture marketing.

Sanford has vowed to veto any cigarette tax proposal that doesn't come with a matching tax decrease. His allies repeatedly tried to use the tax to offset a variety of taxes: income, homes, business, capital gains and even personal property like boats. All those measures failed -- but they consistently yielded enough votes to sustain a veto. (South Carolina - with Gov. Sanford still in office most likely no tobacco tax increase in 2010..)

“For nine years we've been trying to pass a cigarette tax increase,” said Carol Reeves, president of Greenville Family Partnership (GFP). “This year, we've got to do it.” - Does NOT Seem Likely..

References: Senate OKs 50-cent cigarette tax hike Prolonged debate ends with passage, but a Sanford veto is anticipated by RODDIE BURRIS (, The State, 4/1/2010; , SC Senate OKs 50-Cent Cigarette Tax Increase by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, The New York Times, 4/1/2010.

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