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Major campaigns snuff out proposed cigarette tax

Major campaigns snuff out proposed cigarette tax

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SPRINGFIELD — The two major gubernatorial campaigns Wednesday snuffed out Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn's suggestion the state institute a cigarette tax to cover growing Medicaid costs.

Neither Gov. Rod Blagojevich nor Republican challenger Judy Baar Topinka would actively seek to increase the state's cigarette tax by 50 or 60 cents.

"We don't have any proposal on the table right now." said Sheila Nix, a spokeswoman for the Blagojevich campaign, noting there isn't support from General Assembly for that tax increase. "The governor supports it. But, if there aren't enough votes to get it through the legislature, it doesn't matter what we support."

Quinn's proposal arose out of growing concern from medical providers that the state is late paying Medicaid reimbursements.

"It's refreshing to hear the Blagojevich-Quinn administration finally admit that they've created a serious fiscal problem for the state of Illinois," said John McGovern, the spokesman for the Topinka campaign. "At this point we are not considering any new taxes."

The comments come after Quinn suggested in Southern Illinois Tuesday that citizens should have been given the opportunity to vote on a ballot referendum to gauge the popularity of hiking the cigarette tax.

"I think there would be a 2-1 vote in factor of such a measure," said Quinn at a rural health task force meeting in Carterville. "I think the General Assembly should actively consider that after the election. This is a very, very serious problem."

In 2005, Blagojevich flirted with raising the cigarette tax by 75 cents only to be slapped down by the General Assembly.

Both Democrats and Republicans, especially those representing the state's borders, feared higher cigarette taxes would push smokers to buy not only tobacco out-of-state but other goods as well, like gasoline and groceries.

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