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Illinois Senate approves cigarette tax increase

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SPRINGFIELD — Illinois smokers may pay $1 more for a pack of cigarettes after the Illinois General Assembly on Tuesday agreed to a tax increase.

By Stephanie Fryer

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois smokers may pay $1 more for a pack of cigarettes after the Illinois General Assembly on Tuesday agreed to a tax increase.

With a vote that largely followed party lines, the Illinois Senate passed the measure, 31-27. It now heads to Gov. Pat Quinn, who is expected to sign the bill as part of a plan to restructure the state's Medicaid budget.

The cigarette hike is just one way state officials plan to fund $2.7 billion in Medicaid savings. Lawmakers already approved $1.6 billion in program spending cuts.

Senate Republicans mostly opposed the measure, saying they don't want the state to continue relying on raising revenues to deal with a budget crisis, nor do they want smokers to spend their money in states with cheaper taxes.

"We just had a $7 billion tax increase, and yet the taxes that continue in this bill are just a few of the many that are still left on the table," Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, R-Lemont, said. "So what we are attempting to do, philosophically, is develop an approach that looks for revenue, revenue, revenue as opposed to tightening up on the spending end."

Cigarettes would be taxed at $1.98 a pack, up from 98 cents. The tax would go into effect if Quinn signs the bill.

The state expects to generate about $350 million from the cigarette tax increase.

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