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Utah House Passes $1 Cigarette Tax Hike

SALT LAKE CITY -- A bill passed by the House here in a 19-8 vote would increase the state's cigarette tax $1, to total $1.695, The Associated Press reported. Supporting lawmakers have argued the tax increase would generate $43 million in the coming fiscal year.

The bill now goes to Gov. Gary Herbert, who has said he's opposed to any increases, but hasn't voiced a veto threat to a tobacco tax hike, according to the report.

Republican Rep. Paul Ray, who proposed the measure, said he's "comfortable" the governor will be on board.

"He hasn't told me specifically he is," Ray said in the AP report. "But you've been up here long enough you can just kind of see how things go."

Herbert spokeswoman, Angie Welling, told the AP the governor will consider the tax increase in the context of the overall budget, and noted he hasn't decided what action he'll take on the legislation.

Regarding the passage of the bill, Bill Phelps, spokesman for Altria Group, parent to Philip Morris USA, told the AP raising taxes is the wrong solution.

"Typically cigarette tax increases do not raise all of the revenue they are projected to raise, creating another budget gap," Phelps said in an e-mail. "Retailers will be hurt by this massive tax increase as some adults cross state lines or turn to the internet to buy cigarettes and avoid paying the tax."

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