An Illinois Senate committee has agreed to raise cigarette taxes by $1 a pack, setting the stage for a final vote on the proposal. The tax increase passed 9-4 along party lines. If the full Senate approves the idea, it goes to the governor. 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 million 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. Other tobacco products would see state taxes rise too.
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