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Proposed Cigarette Tax Would Funnel Revenue Into Property Tax Relief for Seniors

One state lawmaker is taking Philadelphia’s idea for a cigarette tax and applying it statewide.

Republican Rep. John Lawrence of Chester County is proposing an additional 80-cents-a-pack tax on cigarettes. The revenue would go into a property tax relief program for seniors.

The House and Senate have been at odds over a plan to let Philadelphia levy a $2-a-pack cigarette tax to help fund its schools.

Lawrence said if lawmakers can pass that, they should approve a broader effort to help low-income seniors pay for rising school property taxes.

"It’s something that needs to be addressed," he said. "A lot of people have talked about it for a long time, and I’ve been looking for any opportunity to try and advance the property tax bandwagon down the field, and so certainly I see this as one of those opportunities."

Pennsylvania’s statewide cigarette tax is $1.60, though local sales taxes apply in Philadelphia and Allegheny County.

The commonwealth’s cigarette tax is lower than that of all its border states except Ohio and West Virginia.

The Independent Fiscal Office warned last year that revenue from the cigarette tax may be less reliable in future years as smoking rates continue to decline.