- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 24, 2014

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Pennsylvania state government has cleared Philadelphia to impose a $2-per-pack cigarette sales tax to help the city’s financially troubled public schools.

Gov. Tom Corbett signed the bill Wednesday, saying it will provide a steady funding source for the state’s largest school district but warned that it’s only a step toward resolving the district’s financial struggles and devising a fair formula to distribute state aid to schools.

“This was not a partisan issue. It was about the students of Philadelphia,” the Republican governor said at a Capitol news conference where he was flanked by city officials and lawmakers from both parties.

“Today is a great day, a happy day,” said William Hite, the city schools superintendent. “For the first time while in Harrisburg, I’m actually smiling.”

The legislation was stuck for months amid squabbling between House and Senate Republican leaders over unrelated provisions that were dropped in the final version.

The planned tax is expected to generate $83 million a year in revenue. Philadelphia City Council and Mayor Michael Nutter approved the tax.

The state already imposes a $1.60-a-pack excise tax on cigarettes.

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