After a months-long delay, the state House approved a bill authorizing the city of Philadelphia to impose a tax on cigarettes to fund schools.

The bill - which passed without debate largely along party lines 114-84 - now goes to the Senate which is expected to take it up this week.

Philadelphia lawmakers applauded the bill's passage as a way to generate funds to address an $80 million school budget shortfall. School Superintendent William Hite had said without it he would be forced to close schools and lay off teachers and staff.

Each week the tax was delayed meant the loss of $1.6 million in revenue for schools.

State Rep. Curtis Thomas, (D., Phila)  today said he was pleased the General Assembly finally passed a bill to ease the Philadelphia school funding crisis, but also urged his colleagues to remember that plenty of work remains to ensure city schools have "sufficient, secure and reoccurring funding."

In addition to the sales tax, over the past several fiscal years, the city of Philadelphia has been forced to increase local property taxes and business taxes to address the repeated shortcomings in state funding for education.

Rep. Cherelle Parker (D.,Phila.) chair of the House Philadelphia Delegation, said the legislature needs to come up with a fair funding formula to compensate for the elimination of funding sources including the Charter School Reimbursement, Accountability Block Grant and School Improvement Grants, which has cost the district $608 million over the last four years.

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