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Smokin' Tax

When Doug Duncan backed a cigarette tax increase yesterday to pay for the state's health care priorities, the Republican governor's response was quite predictable.

The governor is always on the side of lower taxes," said Henry Fawell, a spokesman for Gov. Bob Ehrlich.

But some Democrats also questioned the wisdom of backing a tax increase in an election year--in a race against an incumbent whose campaign includes a no-new-taxes plank.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller (D-Calvert) predicted that Duncan's health-care plan would not hurt in the Democratic primary, when he faces Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley. But in a general election, he said, "he'll be classified as a tax-and-spend liberal."

O'Malley, for his part, said he supports many of the priorities Duncan enumerated, including money for drug treatment and uninsured children. But he questioned whether doubling the cigarette tax to $2 a pack was the best approach.

"The downside to that particular tax," he said, "is one would hope it would be a shrinking revenue source as more people stop smoking."

Maryland last raised the tobacco tax to $1 in 2002 to help pay for a major education initiative. At $2,it would be the fourth-highest in the nation.

Ann E. Marimow

By Phyllis Jordan  |  June 7, 2006; 6:33 AM ET
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