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New Mexico Drops a Bill for $1 Cigarette Tax Hike

SANTA FE, N.M. -- A bill that would raise cigarette excise taxes in the state by $1 a pack to raise money for education was snuffed last week when a legislative committee voted unanimously against the idea, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported. However, two other bills remain that could raise the state's cigarette tax.

The House Business and Industry Committee voted to table House Bill 35, sponsored by Democratic Rep. Brian Egolf, which killed it for this session. Egolf said the legislation would have raised $36 million, earmarked for the public schools.

Health advocates, including the American Cancer Society, supported the bill, along with several labor and religious organizations. Supporters saw the bill as a way to prevent further cuts to education and other state programs as the state faces a $600 million budget shortfall, the report stated.

Opposing the bill were tobacco lobbyists and representatives of several business groups, among them Mark Smith, of the Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Co.,

"We pay a good wage," he told the newspaper. "We've been in Santa Fe 27 years." Smith claimed the cigarette tax increase would cause the loss of hundreds of jobs statewide in the retail industry.

Other opponents noted that the federal tax on cigarettes went up by 62 cents a pack only last year.

However, there are still two Senate bills that would raise cigarette taxes, but if one or both passed the Senate, they likely would have to go through the same committee that voted down this bill, the report stated.

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