Chester County lawmaker pushing to hike Pa. cigarette tax

     Packs of cigarettes are seen on display at a news stand in this file photo. Rep. John Lawrence of Chester County  has proposed a state-wide  80-cents-a-pack tax to help with higher school property taxes. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)

    Packs of cigarettes are seen on display at a news stand in this file photo. Rep. John Lawrence of Chester County has proposed a state-wide 80-cents-a-pack tax to help with higher school property taxes. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)

    For months, Pennsylvania lawmakers have been wrestling with a plan to let Philadelphia levy a cigarette tax to help pay for its schools.

    One Republican has a proposal to take that tax statewide.

    Rep. John Lawrence of Chester County figures that if lawmakers can pass a cigarette tax for Philadelphia schools, they can pass a statewide cigarette levy to help with higher school property taxes.

    His proposed 80-cents-a-pack tax would go straight into a property tax relief program for seniors.

    Lawrence says he doesn’t think the additional levy would lead to border bleed — people leaving the state to buy smokes.

    “I don’t think we’re going to be chasing people into New York if we raise the cigarette tax to 80 cents a pack,” he said.

    The commonwealth has the lowest cigarette tax rate of all of its border states except Ohio and West Virginia.

    Delaware has the same cigarette tax rate.

    But the Independent Fiscal Office said last year that cigarette tax revenue has declined as fewer people are smoking.

    Lawrence says dealing with growing property tax bills should not be put off.

    “It’s something that needs to be addressed, a lot of people have talked about it for a long time, and I’ve been looking for any opportunity to try and advance the property tax bandwagon down the field, and so certainly I see this as one of those opportunities,” he said.

     

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