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California cigarette tax picking up votes

California smokers might be puffing a bit nervously today as the Proposition 29 tally continues.

Cigarette_butt (2)Golden State election officials still are counting more than a million mailed ballots that were sent a day or two before the June 5 vote on the proposal to add another $1 per pack excise tax to cigarettes.

Results immediately after the vote showed the ballot initiative to increase the tax being defeated by around 63,000 votes.

But as the counting has continued, the no-new-tax margin of victory is shrinking.

As of late Friday, June 15, the "no" vote lead had shrunk to 16,778 votes, reported the Los Angeles Times. That's just four-tenths of 1 percent.

Still, says the newspaper, the odds of the cigarette tax actually winning are not good:

"About 52% of the remaining 436,000 uncounted ballots would have to favor the measure, which would fund cancer research and anti-smoking campaigns. The proposition reached or exceeded that level of support in only 16 of California's 58 counties.

'It's not very probable, not unless it gets the vast majority of outstanding ballots in counties where it's doing very well,' said Stephen Weir, Contra Costa County's registrar of voters."

But you never know.

"I would always caution against making a bold prediction of victory or defeat until it becomes mathematically impossible for any other outcome," Democratic political consultant Brian Brokaw told the Times.

So sit back and light up another or do whatever you do to relax. Nothing will be official until July 6, the deadline for county election officials to submit certified results.

Illinois increase is official: Gov. Pat Quinn last week signed into law legislation that will close a $2.7 billion gap in Illinois' Medicaid program.

A chunk of that budget balancing money will come from a $1-a-pack increase in the state's cigarette excise tax.

Illinois' new cigarette tax takes effect June 24, hiking the tax to $1.98 per pack.

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