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Washington Outlook: Capital Wrapup
Smokers, beware--of Senator Bill Bradley (D-N.J.). The Clinton Administration's growing propensity to heed his advice could increase the chances for a whopping increase in the federal tobacco tax. Bradley, a key member of the Senate Finance Committee, has been influential in reshaping Clinton's tax proposals. His opposition helped to scuttle a proposed investment tax credit and halve a planned increase in the corporate tax rate. And the Treasury Dept.'s proposal for tax breaks in urban "empowerment zones" closely follows a model proposed by Bradley. Now the former New York Knicks star is stepping up the pressure for a tax of at least $1 per pack of cigarettes. "I'm tired of paying for your lifestyle choices," he tells smokers. "[We spend] $50 billion taking care of you because you can't get your fingers off the nicotine." The main obstacle to the big tax increase: Southern Democratic senators with ties to the tobacco industry could hold the balance of power on close tax and health-care votes.