House, Senate override cigarette tax veto - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

House, Senate override cigarette tax veto

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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The price of cigarettes is going up in South Carolina. On Thursday, the state Senate voted to overturn Governor Sanford's veto of the cigarette tax increase.

The 50 cents/pack tax will generate about $136 million in revenue. The state's Medicaid system will get about $125 million from the revenue for prescription drug and children's health programs.

It's the first increase in the state cigarette tax since 1977, and the result of a battle that's raged on for more than a decade.

After a decade long battle, senators supporting an override of Governor Sanford's veto of the cigarette tax celebrated.
     
The most vocal Senators were for keeping the veto in place. Spartanburg Senator Kevin Bryant took the floor in a last-ditch effort to sustain the veto by chastising members of his own party.

"I think there's capitulation on our side of the aisle in believing government is going to grow, so we've go to find a way to fund it because there's nothing we can do about it," said Sen. Lee Bright (R-Spartanburg).
     
So did Lancaster Senator Mick Mulvaney (R-Lancaster). He says raising the cigarette tax is a political cop-out on true tax reform.

"We're ignoring the big opportunities because this is politically sellable," said Mulvaney. "This is something that we can do."
      
But when it was time to vote, it was those who wanted to see the tax go up who had the loudest voice.
     
The vote was so important to Orangeburg Democrat John Matthews, he returned from sick leave in a wheelchair to make sure the override went through. Oconee Republican Thomas Alexander has led the fight for years. He says Thursday's vote affirms his belief that if a law is the right thing to do it will happen.

"If it's the right thing for South Carolina, it will happen," said Alexander. "It may take a little bit longer, but it will happen. Today is proof of that."
     
Those of you who light up will start paying up on July 1.

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