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In victory for Philly schools, lawmakers reach consensus on cigarette tax

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

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Philadelphia schools received a tremendous victory in Harrisburg on Tuesday as Senate lawmakers passed a long-sought $2-per-pack cigarette tax that District leaders expect to generate $49 million in revenue this school year for the city district.

In a 39-11 vote, senators adopted the language approved by the House of Representatives on Monday. This was key, as the two chambers disagreed for much of the summer over other elements unrelated to the cigarette tax that were tucked into the omnibus legislation.

The House stripped those provisions out last week. Tuesday, understanding the urgency of the District’s fiscal needs, Senate leaders moved the bill without the ancillary measures or amendments that would have kicked the bill back to the House.

Gov. Corbett lauded the action, saying he will sign the bill into law as soon as it reaches his desk.

"I am pleased that both chambers have taken action on this legislation so that the Philadelphia School District and, more importantly, the students of Philadelphia, can benefit from it," Corbett wrote in an official release.

Corbett officially has 10 days to sign the legislation. A spokesman couldn’t say exactly when he will receive the bill, saying that would be up to the legislature.

The District says it needs to begin receiving cigarette-tax proceeds by Oct. 1 in order to avoid more cuts. It will take five days after Corbett signs the measure for the Treasury Department to implement the levy.

Without cigarette tax revenue, District leaders say more than 1,000 layoffs would have been necessary.

"We are extremely pleased and relieved that the cigarette tax legislation has been passed by the Senate and the House and it is awaiting the governor’s signature," said Superintendent William Hite and School Reform Commission Chairman Bill Green in a dual statement.

Read the rest of this story at NewsWorks

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