A key legislator says unless 26 of the 51 republicans in the House back an increase in the cigarette tax, it will not happen. House Speaker Christopher Rants, a republican from Sioux City, says legislators are “all over the board” on the proposal. Some support it because they believe a higher cigarette tax will have health benefits — it may prompt some smokers to stop and dissuade others from starting. Rants says others believe the extra tax money’s needed to ensure the state reimbursement rate for hospitals and doctors who treat Iowans who’re on Medicaid doesn’t fall. Others believe the state can get by without a cigarette tax increase. Rants says there’s no concensus yet. “It’s clearly frustrating,” Rants says. “We’d always like to say very quickly yes or no…but I think this is one, especially given the narrow (Republican) margin in the House and it’s clearly divided in the senate (with an equal number of republicans and democrats), that there has to be strong consensus to push it forward.” Rants hopes the legislature decides the cigarette tax issue by the end of this month. “I know, I keep looking at the calendar, too, and it’s slipping by,” Rants says. Rants is laying down one key condition before he’ll even allow the House to take a vote on a cigarette tax hike. Twenty-six of the 51 republicans in the House will have to back the tax increase, or Rants says he won’t allow a vote on the issue.
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