On the eve of Tax Day, the SC Senate passed a cigarette tax increase. The bill to raise the tax by 50 cents is in third reading after senators reached a compromise on special set-aside funding for the I-95 corridor. It was changed because that earmark did not sit well with certain senators.
The man who asked for the money, John Land of Clarendon, introduced the compromise.
That may harm this bill to where we get nothing. And I didn’t want to do that, and thanks to the senator of Charleston for the idea and the senator from Florence for the thought process who came up with the source of money, which is certainly appropriate, and that is from the tobacco tax settlement.
The settlement yields about $10 million in interest each year, so $3 million will go to infrastructure in counties along I-95 and another $1 million to promoting SC agricultural products.
Senator Land says he does support a cigarette tax, which would now go to offset the state’s Medicaid payments, which will run short in the next year.
“I never wanted to hurt or kill the cigarette tax, regardless of what some of those in the media may have said. — of course, obviously I have lived in tobacco growing country all of my life –Senator from Williamsburg. Of course, my farmers don’t want me to vote for it. But I have been on record for over 12, 15 years that I favored increasing the cigarette tax in South Carolina.”
The Senate met until 8 p.m. while opponents weighed in and Senator Land pledged to help Senators with their pet projects.
With the amendment, Land got:
$3 million annually, to that I-95 authority for the purpose of infrastructure. As I told you the other day, there again, the senator from Florence said that we’re going to put a two-to-one match. So it’s not a give-away program. If you want something in Dillon County, you got to come up with two dollars to get a dollar. So that would have a big impact and involve the locality in this program which we feel will have a dramatic impact in an area of South Carolina that has been overlooked.
The cigarette tax passed to third reading by a vote of 32 to 12. The goal of all but 12 of the Senators was to reach enough votes to overcome a likely veto by the governor.