ST. PAUL (AP) -- Critics of a new 35-cents-per-pack fee that will be charged to small tobacco companies under legislation signed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty say it strikes them more as a tax.
Pawlenty signed the bill Tuesday. Under it, the new fee applies to all but the big four tobacco companies -- Philip Morris, Brown and Williamson, R.J. Reynolds and Lorillard -- which settled a $6.6 billion lawsuit with the state in 1998.
The fee was buried in a tax policy bill that passed the House and Senate last week. Backers of the new fee say it just makes the small tobacco companies, which have flourished since the settlement, pay as much to the state as the big companies that were part of the lawsuit. "The purpose of that fee is make sure everyone is contributing an approximate dollar amount on a per-pack basis that it cost the settling companies," said House Tax Committee Chairman Ron Abrams.
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