Proposed bill would increase cigarette taxes to raise SC teachers' pay

Proposed bill would increase cigarette taxes to raise SC teachers' pay
The proposed bill suggests cigarette tax should be increase by five cents on each cigarette that will help increase pay raises for South Carolina teachers.

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - South Carolina lawmakers have introduced a bill that would increases taxes on cigarettes to pay public school teachers more.

House Bill 3665 suggests taxes on cigarettes should increase five cents per cigarette.

That would be an additional $1 tax on a pack of cigarettes. The bill states the tax would be used for equal pay raises for all K-12 public school teachers in the state.

A 19-year teaching veteran said she’s not sure if a cigarette tax is the right move to raise teachers’ salaries.

“My concern would be with the cigarette tax is it’s not a tax for everybody,” Leanna Rossi-Potter said. “Yes, it may be targeting certain groups of people, but I feel as though everyone should be supporting education. Whether it be helping out in the schools or helping with resources to better our students.”

The group reports that South Carolina sells more than 275 million packs of cigarettes a year and brings in nearly $150 million in revenue.

The group also reports that the adult smoking rate in South Carolina is 18 percent.

Rossi-Potter said if that number goes down it could decrease the proposed raise for teachers.

"I think as years go by less and less people will probably be smoking because of the health hazards of it. I don't think it's going to be a continuous stream of revenue that will be the same year after year,” Rossi-Potter said. “That's my guess."

The proposed bill is now in committee in the state’s House of Representatives. If the bill is passed it will move to senate then ratified and signed by the governor into legislation.

Representatives Joseph Jefferson (D)-Berkeley County, Lonnie Hosey (D)-Barnwell, Mark Willis, (R) - Greenville, Wendy Brawley (D)-Richland, Leon Howard (D)-Richland and Robert Williams (D)-Darlington introduced the bill on Jan. 17.

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