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The House Education Committee was divided over how to handle a bill that takes money away from tobacco cessation efforts to use to expand the University of North Dakota's medical school.

While most Republicans on the committee favored the bill with a few minor changes, Democrats put forth their own amendment that found a way to fund both the current cessation projects and the medical school expansion.

Under the amendments known as the minority report, the cessation efforts passed in 2008 under Measure 3 would remain intact, while another section would add 41 cents to North Dakota's cigarette tax. Rep. Phil Mueller, D-Valley City, said that would bring the cigarette tax to 85 cents, which would still be lower than most neighboring states and raise about $34.8 million for the medical school within one year.

The medical school requested about $32 million in expenses for the coming year.

"This plans helps manage preventable disease and chronic disease," said Rep. Lee Kaldor, D-Mayville, which accomplishes the goals of both programs.

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Committee chair Rep. RaeAnn Kelsch, R-Mandan, said the amendment not only flies in the face of the House's continual resistance to raising taxes but also should be voted down because such an idea deserves its own full hearing.

The House voted 68 to 26 to reject the report.

(Reach reporter Rebecca Beitsch at 250-8255 or 223-8482 or rebecca.beitsch@bismarcktribune.com.)

 

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