City Council advances bill to tax cigarettes

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Mayor Nutter has proposed raising taxes on cigarettes and alcoholic drinks served in the city to pay for increasing school costs. (Photo: uofmhealth.org)

A City Council Committee approved today one of two bills proposed by the Nutter administration that would help raise money for the cash-strapped school district by adding a $2 tax per pack of cigarettes.

That bill which would raise $45 million for schools was one of six budget-related bills to advance. Another bill that would raise $22 million through an increase to the liquor-by-the-drink tax by 5 percent did not move out of Council committee. Council president Darrell Clarke hopes to revisit that bill and others next week.

"There's significant support for tobacco," said Clarke, adding that members have concerns about the collections rate of the liquor-by-the-drink tax. 

Both measures still require approval from the state and it's not clear enabling legislation will come through before Council approves a budget by its June 30 deadline.

Nonetheless, Clarke said he wanted to show that Council and the Mayor stand in support of a tobacco tax by moving it forward today. 

It's not clear where support lies for another school funding proposal sponsored by Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez which would raise $30 million through an increase to the use-and-occupancy tax.

"It's not clear there's support for that on final passage," Clarke said of Quinones-Sanchez' plan. "Cigarette and liquor-by-the-drink tax are the most important aspects of funding."

The school district needs $60 million from the city and $120 million from the state to help close a $304 million budget hole.

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