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Tobacco giant Philip Morris USA is gearing up for a potential June ballot measure fight over cigarette taxes, reporting more than $128,000 in contributions to a new campaign account this month.

The measure in question -- which would increase the cigarette tax by $1 a pack to fund cancer research and prevention programs -- is currently slated for the February 2012 ballot. But a proposed June statewide special election to ask voters to extend sales, income and vehicle tax rates set to expire would bump up the California Cancer Research Act and another previously qualified initiative to alter legislative term limits.

The company reported last week four separate non-monetary contributions totaling $128,115.99 to a campaign account called "Taxpayers Against Out-of-Control Spending." The contributions were made in early February when the account to oppose the ballot measure was first established, according to campaign finance reports.

David Sutton, a spokesman for Philip Morris parent company Altria Group, said the committee was created "so that we may explore and evaluate our options regarding this measure."

"We oppose additional targeted taxes on tobacco," he said in an e-mail.

Gov. Jerry Brown wants lawmakers to act by March 10 to approve putting the tax extension to a statewide vote, triggering a June special election. Two of three committees created in support of the cigarette tax measure have also kicked into action in recent weeks, reporting a combined $60,000 in contributions since Jan. 1.


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