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HARTFORD, Conn.-- State legislators early today approved the first major tobacco tax increase in seven years, more than doubling the tax on cigarettes to help plug a $1 billion hole in the state budget.
The measure would increase the current tax on a pack of cigarettes by 61 cents -- from 50 cents to $1.11 as of April 3. It would give Connecticut the third-highest cigarette tax in the nation.
The Senate passed the increase 24-10. The House of Representatives adopted an identical measure, 75-67. Senate Majority Leader George C. Jepsen (D-Stamford) was not able to get the votes he needed to increase the tax even higher, by 72 cents, with the additional money paying for anti-smoking programs. A fallback plan pushed by Jepsen, at 65 cents, also failed, ending in a 17-17 tie, according to the Hartford Courant.
Democrats, who hold a 21-15 majority in the Senate, also were unable to muster support to expand the tax increase to cigars and chewing tobacco.
At least 20 states are looking at raising cigarette taxes this year to help close budget gaps caused by slower-than-expected revenues because of the recession.
Even with the large increase, Connecticut would still have a lower tax than neighboring New York, which is expected to increase its tax to $1.50 per pack. Massachusetts is also considering raising its tax.