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    Nebraska Next to Raise Cigarette Taxes

    No promises made, but supporters say a 50-cent increase per pack is likely.


    LINCOLN, Neb. -- Supporters of a 50-cent cigarette tax hike say the measure is far from going up in smoke in the state Legislature like similar proposals have in past years.

    While Gov. Mike Johanns stopped short of supporting an increase in tobacco taxes, he expressed interest in arguments made by a coalition advocating the idea. Johanns met with members of Citizens for a Healthy Nebraska on Monday, hours before the group released results of a survey of 500 Nebraska registered voters that showed 68 percent support a 50-cent per-pack cigarette tax increase, the Associated Press reported.

    A bill in the state legislature would increase cigarette taxes from 34 cents a pack to 84 cents a pack. Under that proposal, $5 million a year would go toward the state's Medicaid program for children from moderate-income homes. State funding for that program is set to expire in 2003. Another $7 million a year would go to smoking prevention efforts.

    The rest, about $46 million, could be used for general fund spending targeted at health issues.

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