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BALTIMORE -- Two committees of the Maryland Senate voted to raise the state tax on cigarettes to $1 per pack and to devote most of the proceeds to a plan to increase education funding.
The Senate Committee on Budget and Taxation and the Committee on Education, Health and Environmental Affairs voted decisively in favor of a five-year funding plan that would ultimately increase state spending on public schools by more than $1.3 billion a year, according to the Baltimore Sun.
Under the proposal, Maryland's cigarette tax would jump from 66 cents to $1 a pack, among the highest in the nation.
The bill will now move to the floor of the Senate, where it faces a filibuster threat from Republicans and conservative Democrats opposed to raising the tobacco tax in an election year. If the bill clears the Senate, it faces stiff opposition in the House, where Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. (D-Allegany) and House fiscal leaders have said they will not approve an expensive long-term school funding plan when the state is wrestling with an $800 million revenue shortfall in fiscal 2003 and a potential budget deficit in fiscal 2004.