Council introduces bills to hike taxes on cigarettes and booze

Councilman William Greenlee, left, confers with council president Darrell Clarke. (File photo: Ed Hille / Staff Photographer)

A week after Mayor Nutter announced his plans to raise money for the cash-poor School District, the administration submitted two bills that were introduced in City Council today that would increase the liquor-by-the-drink tax and create a new tax on cigarettes.

But Council president Darrell Clarke stressed that Council cannot move forward with the proposals until lawmakers in Harrisburg approve enabling legislation. The clock is ticking though for Council --the legislative body must approve a budget no later than June 30.

And Council is making a tweak to Nutter's plan. Nutter wants to raise $22 million by increasing the liquor-by-the-drink tax by 5 percent and $45 million by adding a $2 tax per pack of cigarettes. He also wants a small portion of the money raised from the cigarette tax to go toward the Philadelphia Health Department's anti-smoking program. 

Clarke said the latter is not happening and all money raised will go to the schools.

"I wasn't briefed on a cessation program and based on the severity of what we have been talking about I believe that every dollar should go to the school district," Clarke said. 

The school district is facing a $304 million budget hole and has asked the city for $60 million and over $100 million from both the state and its union.

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