State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

House reverses course, passing Philly cigarette tax permission

Written by Mary Wilson, Former Capitol Bureau Chief | Jul 2, 2014 9:50 PM

Photo by Mary Wilson / witf

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter scrutinizes the House vote count on a measure to authorize his city to impose a $2-per-pack tax on cigarettes.

State House lawmakers have passed a measure to let Philadelphia impose a cigarette tax, reviving an effort that just 24 hours before appeared doomed.

"We all witnessed tonight, and in the last 24 hours, the spectacular turnaround," said Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter. "Possibly one of the greatest turnarounds in legislative recent history."

The reversal, House GOP leaders say, was linked to a pension overhaul bill that was released from a committee and sent back to the full House, though not for consideration until after the summer.

The tax authorization bill was also connected to new rules for Philadelphia charter schools seeking to appeal denied applications.

"We think the charters are an important part of helping the city of Philadelphia meet its solutions," said GOP House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny).

Philadelphia officials say the proposed $2-dollar-a-pack tax would help knock out a big piece of a $93 million deficit in the Philadelphia school district that is threatening to require layoffs and postponement of the school year.

The bill still must be approved by the Senate, which has already passed similar language.

Governor Corbett signaled his support after the House passed the measure.

"We have worked for over a year, above the partisan politics, to put the students of Philadelphia first," said Corbett in a written statement. "I urge the Senate to concur on this much-needed relief for Philadelphia's schools."

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