State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.
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Lawmakers put off cigarette tax vote, ask Corbett for help

Written by Mary Wilson, Former Capitol Bureau Chief | Jul 31, 2014 2:53 PM
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Photo by Mary Wilson / witf

State lawmakers are scrapping plans to approve a cigarette tax for Philadelphia city schools this summer and, in the meantime, they're asking the governor to send the school district a cash advance.

The state House and Senate can't agree on a bill that includes authorization for Philadelphia to pass a $2-a-pack tax on cigarettes to help fund its school system.

A planned vote next week in the House was cancelled, leaving the district without the injection of funds it was seeking.

But Erik Arneson, spokesman for the Republican Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, said Philadelphia schools can still get the money they need to open on time if Governor Corbett's administration advances the needed money.

The move is not without precedent.

"Last year Governor Corbett advanced the school district of Philadelphia some of their basic education funding money earlier in the year than they would have otherwise received it," Arneson said. "That is an option."

The actual bill containing the cigarette tax authorization was loaded up with piggybacking legislative language for other, unrelated items. With each new provision, the measure gained some supporters and lost others.

Despite that, Arneson said a cigarette tax authorization can pass this fall.

"There's no guarantee but I would be very confident that a resolution will be reached early in session when we return," he said.

Lawmakers are scheduled to return to Harrisburg September 15.

Philadelphia's mayor and schools superintendent have said that without additional funding in mid-August, the school year will begin late, class sizes will increase, and about 1,300 school employees will be laid off.

The governor's office did not immediately return a request for comment.

Published in State House Sound Bites

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