HARRISBURG, June 24, 2014 — In his push for a $2-per-pack cigarette tax to drive more critical dollars to the School District of Philadelphia, state Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams today said supporters of his proposal should expect compromise with his bill but “no excuses” for not getting the measure approved as law.
“I do not want any of us from Philadelphia to be allowed to come back to Philadelphia, point a finger at Gov. Corbett or Republicans and say, ‘We could not get the cigarette tax done.’ That is on our watch. This is our responsibility. This is our commitment. These are our children. This is our problem and we have a solution,” Williams said during a Capitol Rotunda rally with City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson and other state lawmakers.
“While I see people all day long talk about, ‘I’m for more money for education,’ they have not put it on the line about what compromise they’re going to agree to to get that cigarette tax done,” the senator said. “It’s going to require some level of compromise.”
In its current form, Sen. Williams’ proposal for a $2 per pack cigarette tax would generate new revenue for Philadelphia public schools of more than $80 million.
The School District of Philadelphia is facing a $66 million deficit.
Williams wrote to Gov. Corbett on May 22 to urge him support the cigarette tax.
“SB 944 would give the city a much-needed tool to alleviate a significant portion of the (School District of Philadelphia) deficit as well as potential budget shortfalls in future fiscal years,” The Senate Democratic Whip said in his letter.
Today, Sen. Williams said positive discussions about removing the language that allowed a one-time, $45 million grant from the Department of Education to the School District of Philadelphia are being held.
He also called talks on the cigarette tax have his proposal “on a track to actually being adopted.”
“We have to talk about issues of compromise on the other side of the aisle in order to get what we need and require for our children in Philadelphia,” Williams said to applause. “We have the ability to get it done but it is going to require political will and political strength.”