The state Senate approved another budget extender bill which will keep Albany up and running for the next week, but which also included a $1.60 hike of the states tax on cigarettes, bringing the total state tax per pack up to $4.35. The bill passed the Senate in a 32-29 party-line vote and passed the Assembly 77-64. Republicans, who previously vowed not to pass any bill which included tax raises, were upset. Deputy Minority Leader Thomas Libous (R-Binghamton) told the Daily News, "This is just a prelude of what you are going to see in the big ugly. You are going to see spending and taxes, everything that you shouldn't do in this economy."
The price of an average pack in the city will reach nearly $11 when the taxes are put into effect on July 1st, and the cost of smokeless tobacco will jump from $.96 an ounce to nearly $2 an ounce. Starting in September, the state will also begin collecting taxes on cigarettes sold on Indian reservations to off-reservation visitors. One Indian chief told the Times that trying to collect taxes from the reservation would be considered an act of war.
The taxes could raise anywhere from $290 million to $440 million for the state, helping to close the gaping $9.2 billion budget. Lawmakers have agreed on 70% of the budget so far, but Albany could shut down as early as next week if yet another budget extender bill isn't passed. Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver said he has confidence in the progress Albany is making with budget negotiations: "I think they’re going well—maybe a little slower than I anticipated last week, but I think they’re going well." Wow, we'd really hate to see what negotiations look like when they're going poorly!