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CHARLESTON – Just one day after South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford vetoed a bill that would have increased the state's cigarette tax by 50 cents per pack, the state's House voted Wednesday to override the veto, BusinessWeek reported.
The House voted 90-29 -- 11 more than needed -- to overturn the veto. The proposed tax increase still requires a two-thirds majority vote in the Senate to become law.
Legislators want to use nearly $125 million from the tax increase to cover the loss of federal bailout funds next year in Medicaid programs. The measure also would generate $5 million each for cancer research and efforts to curb smoking, and $1 million for agriculture marketing, according t the report.
Opponents argued it would hurt businesses that sell cigarettes, especially along the state border, with Georgia's tax at 37 cents per pack, while North Carolina's is 45 cents.
"When did it become government's role to tax you so you don't do something? That's the most ludicrous, insane thing I've heard in my life," asked Rep. Joey Millwood, R-Landrum. "That's called big government. We're hurting businesses. This is crazy."
Meanwhile, supporters applauded the measure.
"We're one step away from public health initiatives that will protect South Carolinians, keep kids from smoking, and in the long term help our state realize millions of dollars in health care savings," Kelly Davis, spokeswoman for the South Carolina Tobacco Collaborative, said in the report.
In announcing his veto earlier this week, Sanford was joined by House lawmakers opposed to the bill, along with officials from the state's largest anti-tax group and a convenience store operators association, according to a report by Examiner.com.
Sanford noted the legislation doesn't include a provision for tax relief that would counter the tax increase.
"In these difficult economic times," Sanford said, "we believe it would be sheer folly to impose the largest tax increase since 1985."
South Carolina's current tax of 7 cents has been in place since 1977.
S.C. Governor Blasts Tobacco Tax Hike