Gov. Mark Sanford will reveal today whether he will veto a bill to raise the state's lowest-in-the-nation cigarette tax to 57 cents from 7 cents per pack.
While his office was not giving any clues Monday as to what the governor will do, it's widely assumed that he will veto again, as he did two years ago. Sanford will talk about his decision at a 12:15 p.m. news conference.
Sanford spokesman Ben Fox said last week the governor remains opposed to any tax increase that does not include an equivalent tax cut elsewhere.
"We continue to believe it's unwise to raise the overall tax burden on South Carolinians," Fox said last week.
The Senate agreed last week to the House version of the bill that would pay out $125 million annually for state-run health care programs for low-income residents, which would be paired with at least a three-to-one match in federal money. A final $10 million would be split annually between smoking cessation programs and cancer research.
A controversial amendment, which would have sent $3.5 million of tobacco settlement funds to development-strapped counties along I-95, has been removed.
A pro cigarette tax coalition including AARP and the S.C. Appleseed Legal Justice Center was encouraging members Monday to contact lawmakers now in hopes of overriding the veto.
"Clearly all of the polling shows over the years and public sentiment shows people want the cigarette tax increase," said Sue Berkowitz, executive director of Appleseed Legal Justice Center, of polling done by pro cigarette tax organizations. "We're optimistic the veto can be overridden, but it's never a slam dunk with the cigarette tax bill."
The Senate has twice found the 31 voters to override a cigarette tax veto.
To read the complete article, visit www.thestate.com.