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New amendments discussed as cigarette tax for Philly schools awaits passage

A bill that would allow Philadelphia to charge a new $2-a-pack cigarette tax that would go to city schools is being debated today after new amendments were thrown onto the bill in Harrisburg.

Credit: Getty Images Cigarette smoker.
Credit: Getty Images

A bill that would allow Philadelphia to charge a new $2-a-pack cigarette tax that would go to city schools is being debated today after new amendments were thrown onto the bill in Harrisburg.

The tax is expected to provide as much as $40 million in revenue this year if enacted, and more than $80 million in revenue per calendar year.

Mayor Michael Nutter has said this tax would ensure "schools open on time" this fall.

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School officials have said the tax would prevent more than 1,300 projected layoffs of School District of Philadelphia employees before school starts this summer. Such layoffs are expected to inflate classroom sizes to 40 students per teacher.

On June 30, the Pennsylvania State Senate voted 40 to 10 in favor of the cigarette tax, known as House Bill 1177.

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives was not expected to pass the tax in time for this it to go into effect this year.

But on July 2, state Rep. John Taylor, the only Republican representing Philadelphia, negotiated passage of the bill after introducing an amendment that would allow charter school applicants to appeal decisions made by the School Reform Commission to another body.

That sent the bill back to the state Senate, which previously passed the bill.

Now, Republican state senators have added language that would make the tax expire in five years if not renewed and would allow the state to levy new hotel taxes.

The state House of Representatives have agreed to meet Aug. 4 to discuss and vote on the amended cigarette tax bill.

Gov. Tom Corbett has not yet signed the state's $29.1 billion budget, which was due on June 30, the last day of the 2013-14 fiscal year.

 
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