The Illinois House has agreed to raise tobacco taxes by $1 a pack as part of a plan to strengthen the state Medicaid program.
The tax increase passed Friday with a vote of 60-52, but it now must face the Senate. The senate has backed similar increases in the past, according to the Associated Press.
Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie (D-Chicago) said the House has been working on this bill all season as a way to find more funding for Medicaid, reports the Chicago Tribune.
"The prospect of finding more cuts, more pain for vulnerable citizens of Illinois, is certainly not one that the people working in the Medicaid working group would welcome," Currie explained.
Gov. Pat Quinn released a statement applauding Currie and other members of the House for passing the legislation, saying that this decisive action is just what Illinois' Medicaid system needs.
"The cigarette tax is not just good fiscal policy, but good health policy. Adding a dollar per pack will help 60,000 people quit smoking, prevent 60,000 deaths from smoking-related conditions and keep 80,000 kids from taking up smoking in the first place," Quinn added.
For cigarettes, it more than doubles the tax, to $1.98 a pack. Other tobacco products, such as roll-your-own cigarettes, would see a similar tax increase, as well.
It also would create a special tax on hospitals that would then be matched by the federal government and returned to the state.
In all, it's supposed to raise $800 million a year for the Medicaid program.
According to the Tribune, not all constituents are behind the bill since retailers will see a decrease in cigarettes sold and, in turn, economic activity.
One representative, Jim Sacia (R-Pecatonica) used to oppose the legislation but says his position has changed on the matter due to the state of the economy.
"We are in the midst of the worst crisis financially this state has ever seen. Its a tough vote but the right vote," he said.
Officials on Thursday approved deep Medicaid cuts. The taxes and cuts are supposed to close a $2.7 billion hole in the Medicaid budget.