House Approves .50 Cigarette Tax Hike

(AP) _ The South Carolina House has agreed to a50-cent increase in cigarette taxes for the second time in twoyears. House leaders lost a fight Wednesday to lower a proposedincrease in the state’s cigarette tax to 30 cents a pack instead ofthe 50 cents approved last week by the Senate and by the House ayear ago. South Carolina’s cigarette tax is currently 7 cents a pack _ thelowest in the nation. House Speaker Bobby Harrell supported the 30-cent tax hike,saying it would have made it easier to gets the votes needed tooverride a certain veto from Gov. Mark Sanford. But House members rejected the lower increase with a 62-53 voteafter more than two hours of debate. Supporters argue the stateneeds the $125 million the legislation generates for Medicaidprograms.