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    Cigarette Tax Hike Snuffed

    S.C. House takes controversial plan to fund Medicaid off table as budget debate continues.

    CHARLESTON, S.C. -- By five votes, the S.C. House rejected a plan to raise the cigarette tax 44 cents a pack to fund health care needs for poor children and the elderly.

    With its 55-50 vote, the House snuffed out an issue that had overshadowed budget deliberations as state leaders struggled to pay for the Medicaid program amid a budget shortfall. The plan by Reps. James Smith, Joe Neal and Joel Lourie, all Richland County Democrats, sought to provide stable revenue for Medicaid, according to The (S.C.) State.

    House members evoked impassioned pleas for and heaped harsh criticism against increased funding for the Medicaid program. The spirited debate came as the House rejected Senate changes in the state's $5.6 billion budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

    In the end, the House insisted on its version of the spending bill, setting the stage for a joint House-Senate panel to iron out differences in the state budget. But when the six-member panel convenes, the cigarette tax will not be on the negotiating table, the report said.

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