HARRISBURG — Legislation allowing Philadelphia to impose a sales tax on cigarettes to help fund public schools there has cleared its most difficult hurdle.
The state House of Representatives voted 119-80 on Wednesday night to send the bill back to the Senate, which approved a similar version earlier this week. The bill, HB 1177, also includes an amendment to would allow the York County to increase its hotel room rental tax from 3 to 5 percent. Revenues from the tax would go toward tourism promotion.
The hotel tax generates about $1.5 million per year, and an increase is expected to pad the annual collection by about $700,000, to $2.2 million, county tourism officials have said in the past.
Sen. Scott Wagner, R-Spring Garden Township, added the amendment, which has specific population criteria that affects only York County, said Erin Marsicano, executive and legislative director for Wagner's office.
"But it keeps the door open for the future, if other counties grow," she said.
County commissioners and the York County Convention and Visitors Bureau have been supportive of a hotel tax increase in the past, Marsicano said.
"So basically, York County is one that has a great deal of support for this proposal," she said.
Cigarettes: Philadelphia officials say that imposing a $2 per-pack city tax on cigarette sales will help fill a crippling schools budget deficit. Without the money, they say schools won't be fit to open in the fall.
House Republican leaders had tried to block the bill, unless Philadelphia Democrats signed on to legislation to pare back future public employee pension benefits.
Democrats opposed the pension bill.
Bucks County Rep. Gene DiGirolamo, a Republican, won a commitment from GOP leaders to allow a vote on the bill.