Philly cigarette tax rejected by House GOP

    Pennsylvania House Republicans rebuffed an attempt to let Philadelphia impose a cigarette tax to help fund its city schools.

    GOP leaders said Tuesday the $2-dollar-a-pack levy was not related to the bill Democrats were attempting to amend.


    It was a setback for Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, who earlier that day had seen senators approve the tax authorization in a separate bill.

    Nutter said about 1,300 employees’ jobs are on the line, as is the timely opening of city schools in September.

    “School should start in about 70 days,” Nutter said. “There are notice requirements in terms of layoffs, so many teachers, counselors, nurses, and other support staff unfortunately may start receiving layoff notices as a result of the inaction this evening.”

    Rep. Bill Adolph (R-Delaware), chair of the House Appropriations Committee, said he would work with leadership on a tax authorization bill. But, as Nutter pointed out, Adolph gave no details about when the city could expect a vote.

    “We have no timetable for that. We don’t know when anything might happen,” Nutter said. “I’m not sure what the House is getting ready to do even right now, when they will come back, when they will take up measures or, are they going to vote the fiscal code tonight. I mean, there’s a lot of uncertainty here.”

    The Philadelphia school district faces a $93 million deficit that its superintendent says could be filled with the help of the tax.

    Nutter said under normal circumstances, such a large spending gap would have already resulted in layoff notices and school closure plans. He said he’s not sure how long the district can hang on.

    “There does come a point where I mean, unfortunately you have to pull a trigger,” said Nutter.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal