COLUMBIA -Plans to raise the nation's lowest cigarette tax to expand health care coverage face a critical vote.

The Senate Finance Committee has scheduled a meeting Thursday to decide the fate of a proposal to raise the tax from 7 cents to 57 cents a pack.

That proposal would raise about $145 million. But plans to use $100 million of that for tax credits that the state's low-income residents could use to buy health insurance ran into problems.

Democrats questioned how much of that money would be wasted on creating a new bureaucracy at the state Insurance Department and how much would go into insurance company expenses.

They want the money used to expand the existing Medicaid system.