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    Va. Governor Wants Higher Cigarette Tax

    In the heart of tobacco country, the nation's lowest cigarette tax may increase.

    RICHMOND, Va. -- Speaking a few miles from the world's biggest tobacco factory, Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner proposed increasing Virginia's 2.5-cents-per-pack cigarette tax by 1 cent, and raising income taxes for the wealthy, while cutting the grocery tax by 2005, among other things, according to Associated Press and other reports.

    The plan gives local governments the right to tax cigarettes up to 50 cents a pack in 2006, but caps state and local taxes combined at 75 cents.

    Republicans accuse Warner of reneging on a campaign promise two years ago not to raise taxes. "Mark Warner has engaged in a potentially devastating tradeoff of Virginia jobs for short-term revenue growth," GOP Chairman Kate Obenshain Griffin told the Associated Press.

    However, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids applauded the plan, with Executive Director William V. Corr calling it "an important and historic first step toward protecting Virginia's kids and taxpayers from the devastating toll of tobacco.

    "To make the most of this opportunity, we call on Virginia leaders to pass a 75-cent cigarette tax increase, which will bring significant health and revenue benefits and raise the Commonwealth's cigarette tax to approximately the national average, which is currently 72.9 cents a pack and likely to rise as other states increase their cigarette taxes. We also urge support for Governor Warner's proposal to allow county governments to impose their own tobacco taxes."

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