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Bill would raise Calif. cigarette tax

March 10, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
State lawmakers are looking into a possible increase in the cigarette tax. A bill introduced by Senator Alex Padilla, (D) Pacoima, would raise the tax by $1.50 a pack. It's estimated that the tax could bring in a billion dollars a year in new revenues for the state treasury. Eighty-five percent of the money would go into the general fund.

The rest would be devoted to stop-smoking programs and lung-cancer research. Senator Padilla said the focus is on reducing teenage smoking. He recognizes that a reduction in smoking would mean lower tax revenues.

But Padilla maintains there would be a payoff in reduced health-care costs, and more productivity in the workplace, with fewer people out sick.

Padilla's bill, SB 600, has not yet been scheduled for a hearing. The tax hike would require a two-thirds majority in the legislature, and Republican lawmakers usually oppose tax increases. Padilla admits it won't be easy. But he says the recent budget session demonstrated that "where there's a will, there's a way."


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