HARRISBURG, Sept. 23, 2014 — The state Senate today approved the bill that would finally give the School District of Philadelphia the power to levy a $2 per pack cigarette tax on consumers, but Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams lamented the vote and urged lawmakers to find a solution to the basic education funding problem in Pennsylvania.
“I fought for this bill as a way to help the School District of Philadelphia open in time for the start of the new school year, which is well underway,” Williams said. “I appreciate everyone’s work to make sure this bill stayed in front of us and I am appreciative that we are finally in the position to send it to the governor for his signature.
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“While this is a significant revenue stream for Philly schools, it is also the epitome of what is wrong with Pennsylvania. We are depending on cigarette smokers to close the financial hole that exists in the city.
“This commonwealth needs to do much more to reverse course and re-dedicate itself to the mission of public education. We need a modern funding formula that fairly distributes the precious billions in revenue that we now pay to deliver a first-class education.
“Many of our children live in economically challenged communities and they need our utmost attention.
“We do spend a lot of money on education but that is as it should be. Our children are our most important investment and Pennsylvania doesn’t improve unless our children receive the finest education money can buy.
“We must get back to making our children and their future our priority,” Sen. Williams said.
Williams initially proposed to levy the $2 per pack cigarette tax via Senate Bill 944.
House Bill 1177, which now moves to the governor for his consideration, is expected to generate $40 million this year for the school district and $83 million during its first full year.