SC Senate OKs 50 cent cigarette tax increase

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -- South Carolina's Senate has approved a 50 cents-a-pack cigarette tax increase that would lift the nation's lowest smoking tax.

The Senate adopted an amendment Tuesday to raise the tax to 57 cents a pack. That's higher than Georgia's 37 cents and North Carolina's 35 cents.

The increase would raise $159 million to help more families qualify for Medicaid and for others to get private insurance subsidies. Debate on the legislation will resume Wednesday.

Earlier Tuesday, the Senate quickly defeated an amendment that would have raised the tax to nearly a $1. Sen. Brad Hutto had argued that the bigger increase would generate enough money to provide health care for a quarter of a million residents.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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