Buy cigarettes in Illinois? You could pay more, soon. | St. Louis Public Radio

Buy cigarettes in Illinois? You could pay more, soon.

May 29, 2012

Updated 4:30 p.m. with Quinn's comments

Updated 3:57 p.m. with the full Senate's approval of the proposal

Illinois lawmakers have approved raising cigarette taxes by $1 a pack. It now goes to Gov. Pat Quinn, who supports the increase.

The state Senate approved the legislation 31-27 Tuesday in a vote that largely followed party lines.

Democrats argue the increase will help close a hole in the state Medicaid budget and also help prevent smoking. Republicans object to any tax increase.

Officials face a $2.7 billion budget problem for Medicaid. They've already approved spending cuts of roughly $1.6 billion.

The tax is supposed to generate about $350 million. That would then be matched by the federal government to yield about $700 million.

But critics of the plan, including Democrat Mike Jacobs of Moline, say the tax might not generate as much revenue as supporters expect.

"Living on the border, I've noticed that Illinois' cigarette tax is 98 cents," Jacobs said. "And if we increase this to $1.98 a career, how do you think we'll compare with Missouri, whose tax is 17 cents. Will people go across the river to get their cigarettes, or will they leave their buck-71 on the table and say, 'I don't want that?'"

Quinn issued a statement Tuesday following the legislation's passage thanking the members of the General Assembly "who rose to the occasion to save our Medicaid system from the brink of collapse."

Taxes would also rise on other tobacco products