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Published in Print: November 18, 1998, as Prop. 10 Supporters Declare Belated Victory in Calif.

Prop. 10 Supporters Declare Belated Victory in Calif.

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The backers of a California ballot measure that will hike the state's cigarette tax to pay for health and education programs for young children declared victory last week after a count of absentee ballots widened the initiative's tight lead over the tobacco industry-funded opposition.

Although hundreds of thousands of absentee ballots remained to be counted, supporters of the measure deemed their campaign a triumph for the state's children. Last Thursday, votes for Proposition 10 outnumbered votes against it by more than 58,000.

"California voters saw through big tobacco's smoke screen and voted to improve the future of California's children rather than protecting tobacco companies' profits," Rob Reiner, the actor-director who chaired the California Children and Families Initiative, said during a press conference Nov. 11.

The opposition to Proposition 10, the Committee Against Unfair Taxes, conceded defeat the same day. The initiative will raise the state's cigarette tax by more than 50 cents a pack to subsidize new programs for children.

"Proposition 10 narrowly passed by a margin of approximately two votes per precinct out of nearly 8 million votes cast," said Matt Taggart, a spokesman for the opposition campaign. The close margin shows that "voter skepticism remains high toward more taxes, and more unaccountable government programs," he added.

Not Official Yet

As with other races on the Nov. 3 ballot, the victory will not be official until early December, when all counties must report total results to the California secretary of state.

Under Proposition 10, the tax on cigarettes in California will increase from 37 cents a pack to 87 cents a pack starting Jan. 1. Supporters estimate that it will yield roughly $700 million a year in revenues earmarked for health, nutrition, and education programs for infants and young children. ("Calif. Initiative Would Spend Cigarette-Tax Hike on Children," Oct. 21, 1998.)

Eighty percent of the proceeds will be distributed locally to pay for integrated services for children age 5 and younger. The remainder of the money will support statewide tobacco-education campaigns, along with programs that train child-care providers or provide parent education.

Vol. 18, Issue 12, Page 14

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