Kentucky House OKs tax increase on cigarettes, alcohol

FRANKFORT — After a 24-hour blitz of heavy-duty lobbying from legislative leaders and the governor, the House approved a package of alcohol and cigarette tax increases Wednesday to help solve a budget shortfall.

Now, Gov. Steve Beshear is expected to make a personal plea for passage of the bill in the Senate budget committee Thursday morning. Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, said he expects the full Senate to approve the bill by week's end.

On Wednesday, the House endorsed doubling the tax on tobacco products and applying the 6 percent sales tax to alcohol in a 66-to-34 vote that split largely along party lines. Sixty votes are needed to pass a tax increase in the House during odd-year sessions.

The measure, House Bill 144, was in doubt as late as Tuesday afternoon. But it received six Republican votes and wide support from Democrats, including liberal House lawmakers who had threatened to oppose it because they said it didn't go far enough to address Kentucky's long-term budget woes.

Democratic leaders gained their votes by promising to later consider broader tax reforms. Beshear said he spoke with more than 20 lawmakers about the bill, both Republicans and Democrats.

Beshear said he doesn't know when lawmakers will tackle a broader revamping of the state's tax structure, but hinted that more changes might be needed soon.

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