The South Carolina House has overriden Governor Mark Sanford’s veto of a 50-cent increase in the state’s cigarette tax, which is currently the lowest in the nation at seven cents. The vote came shortly before 1 p.m. Wednesday.
The vote was 90-29, quite sufficient to meet the two-thirds majority requirement necessary for a veto. The measure now goes to the Senate. If the Senate does the same, the tax increase will become law. The Senate may consider it as early as Thursday afternoon.
Supporters of the increase say it would mean $124 million for Medicaid programs, facing funding shortages in the recession.
York County Republican Gary Simrill continued his call to protect businesses in counties that border North Carolina and Georgia. At one point this year the House passed Simrill’s legislation that kept the increase at 30 cents, which would have left the tax lower than those in neighboring states. Simrill says that protects South Carolina convenience stores near the state borders from losing business. Proponents of the tax assert that that argument doesn’t hold water, since cigarette tax increases in the neighboring states had no affect on cross-over business in South Carolina.
The tax increase will also generate $5 million for smoking cessation programs and $5 million for cancer research, as well as $1 million for agricultural marketing.
Charleston County Democrat Anne Hutto said that issue comes down to children who won’t start smoking because of the increase. She said her children sent her to the Statehouse with a primary mission of raising the cigarette tax. Lexington County Republican Chip Huggins supported the override, saying that his grandfather was a tobacco farmer.
(Hutto, Huggins on cig tax increase MP3 2:20)
Hutto- Huggins on cig tax veto override