House lawmakers said a Senate proposal to use cigarette taxes to pay for rural water, sewer and other infrastructure could further erode already tenuous support for raising the tax.
The Senate approved a 50-cent increase last week, amending the bill so that $3.5 million was earmarked to match local money for water, sewer and other projects designed to attract jobs to the Interstate 95 corridor. The amendment passed with broad support, but Lexington Sen. Jake Knotts said he could vote against the tax because other parts of S.C. did not similarly receive funding.
The issue is significant because every vote will be crucial to reach the two-thirds majorities needed to overturn a likely veto by Gov. Mark Sanford. Sanford said last week he would veto any cigarette tax hike that does not include an equivalent tax cut.
South Carolina has the nation's lowest cigarette tax at 7 cents per pack. The national average is $1.36 a pack.
The I-95 money is an S.C.-scaled version of the national health care debate, where special deals intended to secure votes — "Cornhusker Kickback" and "Louisiana Purchase" — helped foment opposition to the bill.
The I-95 money further frustrates advocates of passing the tax, who want lawmakers to focus on cutting the smoking rate by raising the tax. Hospitals and other health care groups want the money put into Medicaid, a state-run health program for low-income residents.
Both General Assembly chambers have twice approved a 50-cent tax increase, but advocates have seen side issues clutter the debate and derail the bill several times the past few years.
To read the complete article, visit www.thestate.com.