Before the state Senate adjourned for Easter furlough, lawmakers met into the evening to pass a much-talked about tax on cigarette sales. The Senate upped the House’s proposed cigarette tax to 50 cents a pack. Debate featured a lively array of amendments, but the adopted bill stayed close to the Finance Committee version. For Senator John Land of Clarendon, the deal killer last year was where the money should go. Wednesday, Senator Land said “while the window is open” he must ask for infrastructure help for his I-95 corridor.
(Land’s plea for a piece of the cigarette tax funds MP3)
Sen. Land’s request for cigarette tax funds MP3
Land’s district in this bill gets $3.5 million grant program for the I-95 Corridor.
Aiken’s Senator Ryberg fought to get an amendment taken out that put tax collection responsibility on retailers, especially convenience stores.
(Ryberg stands up for retailers MP3)
Sen Ryberg stands up for retailers MP3
Some prominent Senate Republicans support the cigarette tax revenue to plug a hole in Medicaid when stimulus funds run out.
(Larry Martin of Pickens on use of extra revenue MP3)
Larry Martin on use of extra revenue MP3
(Oconee’s Thomas Alexander supports a cigarette tax to maintain Medicaid funds for the state MP3)
Sen Alexander on use of cigarette tax MP3
The cigarette tax debate also pitted veteran Republicans, like Larry Martin talking to “back benchers” like Kevin Bryant of Anderson.
(Martin says it is hard to raise taxes, but the state is in financial trouble)
Senators Martin and Bryant MP3
In set-aside amounts, the revenue would also fund a stop-smoking program ($5 million), cancer research ($5 million), and help for farmers ($2.7 million).
Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell of Charleston says that no matter if the tax passes, it is a “dwindling source of revenue.”
The bill is now on third reading when the Senate resumes April 13.