FRANKFORT — Kentuckians could be paying more for cigarettes and alcoholic beverages as early as next Saturday, reports the Lexington Herald-Leader in its Saturday edition.
State lawmakers said Friday they are considering increasing the state's cigarette tax by as much as 50 cents a pack and raising the tax on alcoholic beverages on either the wholesale or retail level.
The top two legislative leaders — Senate President David Williams and House Speaker Greg Stumbo — said they hope their chambers can present to Gov. Steve Beshear by next Friday a revenue-producing bill and a budget bill that could take effect immediately.
They told reporters after meeting privately with Beshear that they expect to have a specific plan by Monday or Tuesday to tackle a projected $456 million budget shortfall in this fiscal year, which ends June 30.
The Democratic-controlled House would like to see a blend of higher taxes on cigarettes and alcohol, Stumbo said.
Williams, R-Burkesville, said he thinks his chamber will manage to generate the $81.5 million in new revenue Beshear has requested, but he stopped short of saying how that should be accomplished.
The legislative leaders also seem willing to go along with the cuts Beshear proposed for state agencies. He suggested 4 percent cuts for most state agencies, excluding basic school funding and Medicaid, and only 2 percent cuts for higher education.
However, Stumbo and Williams said they hope to avoid Beshear's proposal to furlough state workers for three days and to transfer a surplus in the coal severance tax fund. Those two moves would have generated $25.5 million for the state's General Fund.
Beshear spokeswoman Jill Midkiff said the governor continues to work with legislative leaders "to forge an agreement."
"We're confident such an agreement is around the corner," she said.
Concerning the cigarette tax, Stumbo said he expects the state's current 30-cents-a-pack tax to go up no more than 50 cents, reports the Lexington Herald-Leader.
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