Montgomery County, Md., County Executive Douglas Duncan, a candidate for the Democratic nomination in the state gubernatorial race, on Tuesday said he supports a plan to double the state cigarette tax to $2 per pack to generate revenue to expand health coverage, the Washington Post reports. Duncan said the tax increase would generate $200 million, $15 million of which would go toward establishing a pilot program to help small businesses purchase health insurance. In addition, $30 million would go toward increasing funding for substance abuse treatment. The remainder would be used to increase health coverage for uninsured children and to create a statewide prescription drug discount card program (Marimow/Wagner, Washington Post, 6/7). Duncan's proposal would enroll 30,000 more children in health insurance programs by doubling the annual income limit for Medicaid eligibility (Scharper, Baltimore Sun, 6/7). Duncan said he plans to reduce the number of uninsured children in the state by one-third by 2009 (Washington Post, 6/7). His proposal also would guarantee access to abortion services and birth control (Baltimore Sun, 6/7). The $2 per pack tax would make Maryland's tax the fourth highest in the U.S., the Post reports. Duncan said, "The consequences of not acting, of letting this health care crisis continue, are far too high -- and the risks far too great" (Washington Post, 6/7).

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