Senate Democrats re-increase cigarette tax

By The Associated Press

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – A day after proposing an increase in cigarette taxes, Senate Democrats increased their increase.

They now want to raise the tax by 90 cents a pack instead of 75 cents. If approved, that would mean smokers pay $1.88 in state taxes on each pack of cigarettes.

The bigger increase was approved 6-4 Thursday by the Revenue Committee and now goes to the Senate floor.

“What’s the number going to be tomorrow?” Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, asked sarcastically.

“We’d better vote on this quick,” responded the sponsor, Sen. John Cullerton, D-Chicago.

Democrats want the bigger increase partly because their original proposal might not generate as much money as they expected. They had predicted it would yield about $328 million a year, but legislative fiscal experts said it actually would be about $300 million.

The bigger increase should generate somewhere between $350 million and $370 million.

Supporters hope to use the money to pay off billions of dollars worth of bonds that would fund construction of new roads and schools. In addition, some would go to hospitals and pharmacies to whom the state owes money.