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    Proposition 29 Flames Out in California Election

    Opponents of the $1-per-pack cigarette tax increase squeak out a win with 50.8 percent of the vote.

    SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- It was a close one, but retailers, tobacco companies and adult tobacco users squeaked out a victory in the state of California.

    With 100 percent of the voting precincts reporting, the California Secretary of State tabulations put Tuesday's vote on Proposition 29 at 50.8 percent against vs. 49.2 percent for. In total, the state's election results indicate 1,958,047 residents cast no votes and 1,894,871 cast yes votes.

    The ballot question would have raised the cigarette state excise tax $1 per pack -- to $1.87 -- and an equivalent tax increase on other tobacco products that would have generated between $700 and $800 million annually.

    As CSNews Online reported yesterday, the fight over Proposition 29 was too close to call in the hours after the election. The tide was leaning toward Proposition 29 opponents, but there was still a question of late-arriving ballots and absentee ballots. However, even taking those into account many predicted the ballot initiative would fail.

    The result reflected a long-standing political divide in California, with San Francisco Bay area counties heavily supporting the measure, while conservative suburban counties in more populous Southern California overwhelmingly opposed it, according to Reuters.

    A poll conducted in March revealed that voters -- by a wide majority -- were in support of the increased levy. However, opponents to the measure launched a firm campaign against Proposition 29. Tobacco companies, by some reports, spent more than $40 million to defeat the tax increase and a coalition of more than 3,200 groups and individuals formed the No on 29 committee to fight against it.

    Several media outlets also came out against the proposal, with at least 18 newspapers running editorials urging residents to vote no on Proposition. The main objective centered on how the additional revenue would be spent. Legislators earmarked the money for cancer research at a time when the state is facing a massive deficit and struggling to, among other things, keep teachers in the classrooms and state parks open.

     

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