Cigarette Tax Delayed to August 4

Pa. House must decide how to handle Senate-amended bill.

The Pennsylvania House will reconvene Aug. 4 to consider approval of a bill that includes authorization for a cigarette tax to fund Philly schools, a spokesman for House Majority Leader Mike Turzai said late Wednesday morning.

That’s later than Philly officials — who have been pushing for immediate passage — will like, coming just weeks before schools are set to re-open in September. But the spokesman, Stephen A. Miskin, said: “It gives us the time to work out what’s to be done.”

Both chambers have approved Philly’s proposed $2-a-pack cigarette tax. The Senate on Tuesday added new features to the bill, including a 5-year-sunset provision on the tax, as well as authorization to other Pennsylvania municipalities to raise hotel taxes in their cities. House Republicans oppose the latter provision. They must now decide how — or whether — to move the bill forward.

“I think everybody understands the need” for Philly to fund its schools, Miskin said.

He added praise to Mayor Nutter for an extensive lobbying effort on behalf of the tax, suggesting it was rare to see senior Philadelphia officials reach beyond their own legislative delegation. “Mayor Nutter has spent a lot of time educating legislators not from the Philly delegation about the need.”

The House reconvenes at 1 p.m. Aug. 4.