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    Michigan House to Vote on Cigarette Tax Increase

    Hike would help eliminate projected $1.3 billion shortfall in budget.

    LANSING, Mich. -- The Michigan state House could vote this week to increase the state tax on cigarettes by 75 cents per pack, reported the Associated Press.

    It's the second time Republican House Speaker Rick Johnson of LeRoy, Mich., has hinted that the chamber could take up legislation imposing the $2-per-pack tax. He said he decided against holding a vote on the bill last week after support from Democrats appeared unclear.

    Bills need 55 votes to win approval in the 110-member House, rather than 56, because there is one vacancy.

    Republicans, who have a 63-46 majority, want to put up a minimal number of votes for the higher cigarette tax because many philosophically disagree with increasing any tax.
    Johnson has publicly supported increasing the cigarette tax as a way to prevent young people from starting to smoke. But he hasn't been able to bring many in his caucus to his side.

    Republican Reps. Craig DeRoche of Novi and Mike Nofs of Battle Creek have said lawmakers should reduce state spending before they vote to increase the cigarette tax.

    Johnson thinks he has 15 Republican votes for the tax increase, spokesman Keith Ledbetter said. If so, all but six Democrats would have to vote for the measure for it to pass. But Democrats have their own objections to the tax increase, saying it would unfairly affect low-income adults who might not be able to quit smoking or afford smoking cessation aids.

    House Minority Leader Dianne Byrum (D-Onondaga) is working on getting enough Democratic votes to win approval for the higher cigarette tax, spokesman Mark Fisk said.

    "It's safe to say that the majority of our caucus will support the governor's budget plan, but it's still early in the process," he said.

    Johnson has said repeatedly that House Democrats must supply a majority of the votes for the cigarette tax increase because it was proposed by Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm as a way to help eliminate the projected $1.3 billion shortfall in the state budget for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.

    A higher cigarette tax would generate about $295 million, with $30 million raised for smoking cessation and chronic disease programs and the rest helping the state offer healthcare coverage to low-income residents through Medicaid.

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