$2 tax on cigarettes to aid schools wins City Council committee support

Philadelphia’s budget process is moving forward as a key City Council committee approved a cigarette tax to help the schools.

The bill creating Mayor Michael Nutter’s proposed $2-per-pack cigarette tax was among six approved by Council’s committee of the whole Wednesday. Nutter has offered several proposals to help the school district fill a $300 million budget shortfall.

The new tax would force some to give up smoking, predicted Jonathan Kirch of the American Heart Association.

“You have a real opportunity to reduce the suffering that will be experienced by the people of this city for years to come,” he said.

Restaurant operators testified that increasing the tax on liquor-by-the-drink to 15 percent from 10 percent would hurt business and send diners to the suburbs.  

That bill did not win approval.

Council President Darrell Clarke said the budget battle is far from over.

“The conversation will continue probably until June 20,” he said. “We have a number of bills there needs to be some additional conversations about, particularly related to budget matters.”

The cigarette and liquor tax changes could not become law without approval from Harrisburg.

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