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State House Set To Vote On Cigarette Tax To Fund Philly Schools

By Tony Romeo, Mike DeNardo

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- The Pennsylvania House is expected to vote today on a proposal to raise new money for the Philadelphia School District -- a measure the school district repeats is badly needed.

In many respects, Mayor Michael Nutter and others who want approval of the $2-per-pack cigarette tax are in the exact same spot they were at the beginning of summer.

The House is again poised to vote on a bill that would authorize the cigarette tax but, this time, does not contain provisions unrelated to Philadelphia schools favored by the state senate.

"I'm hopeful that through the discussions and negotiations that I know have been going on between the two chambers," Nutter says, "and the two caucuses in particular, the House Republican caucus and the Senate Republican caucus – I'm certainly hopeful…"

Hopeful that the dispute between the chambers that caused the cigarette tax proposal to languish over the summer can be resolved and a bill can go to the governor's desk this week.

School District superintendent William Hite says the district is banking on the tax because the money is already spent, based on assurances from legislative leaders.

"What's important for us is that that revenue is already committed," Hite says. "And therefore we need that piece of legislation to move."

If approved by the House, it would go back to the state Senate. The so-called "clean" bill doesn't include the hotel taxes and tax incentives favored by the Senate.  It does, however, include a provision allowing charter school applicants denied by the School Reform Commission a direct appeal to the state.

Hite says the tax is expected to generate anywhere from $42 million to $69 million for Philadelphia schools.

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