Philadelphians exhaled last week when the Pennsylvania House approved a $2-a-pack cigarette tax increase in the city, a move expected to generate up to $170 million. Without that extra money, the district’s schools faced drastic cuts in October. No one was really happy about it. When it looked as if the bill would pass this summer, Newsworks’ Dave Davies wrote the legislative victory was “spectacularly depressing” — but at least it’s a solution for this school year.
It’s not like House Republicans suddenly changed their mind on a cigarette tax that was declared dead in late June and delayed again this July for nothing. A report in the Inquirer this summer detailed the reason many House GOP members flipped: An amendment in the cigarette tax bill allows charter school applicants rejected or ignored by the School Reform Commission a second chance with the state Charter Appeals Board. Previously, they had no avenue to appeal. (See the final version of HB 1177 below; it contains both the cigarette tax language and the charter appeal process.)