Tobacco tax hike for Medicaid expansion rejected

AP

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  • Election volunteer Heidi Spanks helps a voter at Laurel High School on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018 in Laurel, Mont. (AP Photo/Matthew Brown)

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    A voter enters a voting booth at Laurel High School on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in Laurel, Mont. (AP Photo/Matthew Brown) (AP Photo/Matthew Brown)

  • Election volunteer Heidi Spanks helps a voter at Laurel High School on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018 in Laurel, Mont. (AP Photo/Matthew Brown)

  • 1

    A voter enters a voting booth at Laurel High School on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in Laurel, Mont. (AP Photo/Matthew Brown) (AP Photo/Matthew Brown)

HELENA (AP) — Montana voters have rejected a ballot measure that sought to extend the state’s Medicaid program and pay for it in part by raising the tobacco tax.

The result from Tuesday’s election means the expanded Medicaid program covering 96,000 people will expire next year unless the Montana Legislature renews it.

One of the nation’s largest tobacco companies led an expensive campaign to defeat the measure. Altria is the parent company of Philip Morris and poured more than $17 million into the race.

The initiative would have continued the expansion program indefinitely. Up to $26 million from the tobacco tax increase would have gone to offset the program’s increasing costs to the state.

The tax hike would have raised the price on a pack of cigarettes by $2, raised snuff prices and taxed vaping products for the first time.

Montana voters also rejected a ballot initiative that would have increased cleanup standards for companies that plan to open new mines in the state.

The measure that failed in Tuesday’s election would have required developers to provide clear evidence in any new hard-rock mining proposal that the mine wouldn’t need the perpetual treatment of polluted water after operations end.

An industry-led campaign pushed to defeat it.

Five mining companies funneled cash and services to the Montana Mining Association to argue that the measure’s language was vague and would allow environmental groups to sue to block any future developments.

Wildlife and environmental advocates backing the measure said it would have prevented mining companies from leaving behind permanent water pollution and saddling the state’s taxpayers with the costs of cleanup.

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