South Carolina - state senate could send 50-cent cigarette tax increase to governor soon..

Gov. Sanford - will he veto???

May 5, 2010 - The Cigarette Tax Bill could finally be heading to Gov. Mark Sanford's desk Wednesday or Thursday after the Senate takes a last look at the bill. Tuesday, May 4th the Senate took up the House's version of the Cigarette Tax, which raises the tax from $0.07 to $0.50. The Senate decided to carry the bill over to Wednesday for a final review. The current tax of 7 cents a pack hasn't changed since 1977 when a pack cost 48 cents.

If the bill is passed, it could raise $129 million in revenue, planned for a smoking cessation program and medicaid trust fund to offset the effects of diseases caused by smoking, organized by the Department of Health and Environmental Control.

"I think it's very tenuous, with some members of the Legislature to vote for the cigarette tax. We've had a majority vote, so now we need to move forward and send it down to the governor with strength behind it that most South Carolinians want this tax," Sen. Phil Leventis (D-Sumter County, Lee County) said.

Senators nearly agreed to send the legislation to Sanford on Tuesday. However, they're reconsidering their original vote in debate set for Wednesday.

At Greg's Gas Plus in North Augusta, the governor and a economics porfessopr at West Va. University Russell Sobel addressed the topic of possibly raising South Carolina's cigarette tax. Russell bolstered Sanford's case against the proposed tax increase, largely on the grounds that money is best kept in the hands of the private sector, rather than being sifted through the government. The proposed legislation, Sanford said, will arrive "shortly" on his desk for signature and would amount to a raise of 50 cents per pack. The governor, however, indicated he plans to veto what he described as "about a $1.3 billion tax increase over the next 10 years." (Governor discusses higher cigarette tax by BILL BENGTSON, North Augusta bureau,, 4/22/2010.)

The four Republicans running for governor would veto a cigarette tax increase and would push to drill, baby, drill off the coast of South Carolina. The Republican primary is June 8. — Corey Hutchins

References: VIDEO - Governor Could Get Cigarette Tax Bill By End of Week, Jeremiah Hall,, 5/4/2010; Senate could send cigarette tax to governor, The Associated Press, 5/5/2010.

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