The South Carolina House on Wednesday approved legislation that would increase the state cigarette tax by 50 cents per pack to fund health care programs for low-income state residents, the AP/Winston-Salem Journal reports. The state Senate approved the bill earlier this month.

The tax increase is expected to generate an estimated $159 million in additional revenue. House Minority Leader Harry Ott (D) said that the bill would fund health coverage for about 80,000 parents of child Medicaid beneficiaries and that it would help make coverage affordable for at least 30,000 workers through three years under premium assistance.

Gov. Mark Sanford (R) has threatened to veto any legislation that includes a tax increase but that does not cut taxes equally elsewhere. Joel Sawyer, a spokesperson for Sanford, said, "We also think it's poor policy to use the money to expand Medicaid because the cigarette-tax money will at best remain steady and will likely decrease -- while Medicaid expenditures can be expected to increase by 8% a year," adding, "That's in effect a guaranteed future tax increase" (AP/Winston-Salem Journal, 5/22).

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