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Corbett signature makes Philly cigarette tax official

Photo: Mary Wilson/WHYY

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

Gov. Corbett has signed a long-awaited measure to let Philadelphia levy a tax on cigarettes, beginning next month, to raise money for its schools.

Supporters heralded the bipartisan effort of Pennsylvania lawmakers to allow the city to levy a $2-per-pack tax on cigarettes. The tax, along with a city sales tax increase and borrowing, helped the School District bridge an $81 million deficit.

"We’re thrilled, and for the first time while in Harrisburg, I’m actually smiling and celebrating," said District Superintendent William Hite at a bill-signing ceremony Wednesday. A lobbyist leading the effort to pass the proposal let out a happy whoop.

The measure also contains a change allowing city charter schools to go to the state to appeal rejected applications. House Republicans insisted on the provision, already wary of appearing to bail out Philadelphia schools by allowing higher taxes.

State Sen. Anthony Williams, D-Philadelphia, said he’s "grateful" the cigarette tax is finally law. But with Corbett on his left, Williams said education spending across the state remains a problem, with a funding formula and other reforms at its root.

"I’m not elated. I’m not kicking up my heels. I’m not clapping applause, I’m not patting myself on the back," said Williams, who is expected to launch a bid for mayor soon. "Because for all the niceties … there’s a lot more work that needs to be done to get a first-class education."

Read the rest of this story at NewsWorks

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