SPRINGFIELD — Cigarette taxes would rise by $1 per pack on June 24 under legislation narrowly approved Friday in the Illinois House.
The measure, designed to help pay down some of the state’s rising Medicaid costs, was approved on a 60-52 vote. It moves to the Senate, where its fate remains uncertain.
Although a handful of Republicans voted for the tax hike in the House, Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, R-Lemont, said she would be surprised if any GOP senators vote in favor of it.
“We have been adamantly opposed to the cigarette tax. We had a $7 billion tax increase a year ago. The more revenue you give this state, the more they spend. We’re not for more revenue,” she said.
Under the proposal, the state portion of the taxes on a pack of smokes would jump to $1.98. The measure includes a provision to also boost the tax on other tobacco products beginning in July.
The increase would generate $350 million, which would grow to $700 million when combined with federal matching dollars.
In order to garner more votes, the increase was paired with a proposed new tax on hospitals that would generate a total of $100 million.
In all, the legislation would bring in $800 million to help offset growing Medicaid costs.
Gov. Pat Quinn praised the House passage.
“Today’s action will improve the health of our people and lower the burden of smoking-related conditions on our Medicaid system while helping to fill the $2.7 billion Medicaid shortfall and stabilize the system for those that need it,” he said in a statement.
Opponents bemoaned the timing of the action as Illinoisans headed into a three-day holiday weekend.
“They want to pass this with as little attention as possible,” said Chris McCalla, the legislative director of the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association.
Retailers said raising the tax would hurt businesses by sending smokers across state borders to buy cheaper tobacco products.
“Smokers already pay more than their fair share,” said Bill Fleischli of the Illinois Petroleum Marketers Association.
Among those voting “yes” were Reps. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro; Dan Brady, R-Bloomington; and Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet.
Among those voting “no” were Reps. Jason Barickman, R-Champaign; Adam Brown, R-Decatur; Brad Halbrook, R-Shelbyville; Bill Mitchell, R-Forsyth; Rich Morthland, R-Cordova; Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg; David Reis, R-Willow Hill; and Keith Sommer, R-Morton.
Rep. John Bradley, D-Marion, was at his desk on the House floor during the debate, but he did not cast a vote. Bradley said he opposes raising cigarette taxes.
“I tried to hit the button. It was a technical error,” he said.
If the Senate approves the increase, Illinois will have the 15th-highest cigarette tax in the nation.
Fourteen states have taxes that are $2 per pack or higher, with New York’s topping the list at $4.35 per pack.
Among surrounding states, Wisconsin’s tax is $2.52 per pack. Iowa is $1.36 per pack. Indiana is at 99 cents and Kentucky is at 60 cents. Missouri has the nation’s lowest state tobacco tax at 17 cents per pack.
The last time Illinois raised cigarette taxes was 2002, when the price jumped 40 cents per pack.