Senate easily overrides on cigarette tax

While I was at a long lunch for the Azerbaijani journalists sponsored by the Columbia World Affairs Council, I got the following two e-mails in quick succession:

SC Senate GOP scsenategop

Senate overrides cig tax veto. about 3 hours ago via TweetDeck


33 to 13. Cig Tax Veto overridden about 3 hours ago via UberTwitter

That good news was coming from the spokesman for the Republicans in the Senate and his Democratic counterpart. And while they passed it on without comment, it was an occasion for rejoicing across party barriers.

This is a rare moment when the SC Legislature actually overcomes barriers and its own inertia to do the right thing. It happens so seldom that we should celebrate it.

Sure, there are plenty of ways to denigrate this accomplishment, and I’m familiar with all of them. A few:

It took only what, a decade? In spite of the fact that we’ve known for years that three-fourths of South Carolinians favored it?

In fact, 70 percent have indicated in polls that they would have gone all the way to the national average — an increase of twice this much — but the Legislature never even seriously considered doing that at any time.

Far too much of the discussion over the years has been over how to spend the money, even though that was irrelevant to whether the tax should be raised. The point in raising it was to price cigarettes beyond the reach of teen, and experience in other states has indicated that raising the price via taxes is a very effective way of accomplishing that.

Probably more than a few legislators voted this way, in defiance of their own inclinations, just for the pleasure of stuffing it down Mark Sanford’s throat.

But let’s set all that aside. The fact is that we no longer have the shameful distinction of being the one state that does the most to make sure kids have access to cheap cigarettes. And some lawmakers understood the importance of this opportunity to do the right thing for once. For instance, I share this other Tweet from Phil Bailey:


Sen. John Matthews just arrived. Been out with a back injury for a month. Cig Tax vote is that important to him. about 3 hours ago via TweetDeck

Let’s savor that accomplishment, and then march forward to address some of the other things we should have done years ago in South Carolina.

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