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Senate rejects tobacco tax hike

By Dave Thompson

Bismarck, ND – The North Dakota Senate has defeated a big tobacco tax increase.

The tax increase was supposed to add 35 cents to the cost of a pack of cigarettes. It would raise the state tax from 44 cents to 79 cents a pack. And it was projected to raise close to 30 million dollars over two years.

But members of the Senate Finance and Tax Committee say they were afraid the figure was inflated -- and were also afraid this may lead to more tax-less Internet tobacco sales.

"Tobacco is supported only by 22-percent of the adult population of the state," said Sen. Ben Tollefson (R-Minot). "It's difficult, really, to say that they should have the responsibility of balancing the budget based on their bad habit."

The measure was defeated 32-13. However, the tobacco tax may come back, after the March revenue forecasts, and if lawmakers decided they need the money to balance the state's budget.