FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Smokers likely won't have to pay more for
cigarettes, after state lawmakers backed down Monday on a proposal
to raise Kentucky's tobacco tax by a quarter.
House Speaker Jody Richards, D-Bowling Green, said the proposal
to raise the cigarette tax is off the table as a way to raise
revenue for the state budget. Kentucky's cigarette tax is among the
lowest in the nation at 30 cents a pack, and health advocates say
raising it could improve the state's overall physical well-being.
"We're very disappointed. We see this as a missed
opportunity," said Tonya Chang, a lobbyist for the American Heart
Association. "As long as we fail to act, we're going to continue
to have the highest rates of adult smoking in the nation. And we're
going to continue to suffer tobacco-related deaths and disease."
Kentucky lawmakers were scrambling to cobble together a nearly
$19 billion two-year state spending plan Monday, with the
legislative clock ticking. Lawmakers missed a self-imposed deadline
and all indications were that they were planning to push through
the night to forge a final agreement.
Legislators say they need both chambers of the General Assembly
to pass it by the end of Wednesday to preserve their authority to
override any possible vetoes by Gov. Steve Beshear.
Lawmakers huddled in the privacy of a Capitol annex conference
room throughout the day, and as many as four state police troopers
stood guard in the hallway that for the second consecutive day was
roped off to the public.