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    Texas Targets Tobacco

    Senators support plan to raise cigarette taxes.

    HOUSTON -- The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee endorsed raising Texas cigarette taxes by one dollar per pack to pay for state smoking-related health care costs.

    The measure could raise $1.5 billion for the 2004-2005 state budget at a time when lawmakers are looking at a potential $5 billion shortfall, according to Sen. Rodney Ellis, (D-Houston.)

    But the proposal also comes at a time when most political candidates are dismissing suggestions the state will have to raise taxes next session. The state Legislature will draft the two-year budget when it convenes in January.

    Health costs for smoking-related diseases costs Texas about $4.55 billion every year, Ellis estimated.

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