FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Kentucky could become the first state in the country to tax opioid prescription painkillers under a proposal intended to generate more revenue for a state struggling to pay retirement benefits to public school teachers and other state employees.

House Republicans unveiled their two-year spending proposal Wednesday. Budget chairman Steven Rudy said lawmakers realized the state did not have enough money to pay for all of its obligations, so they included a tax on opioid prescription painkillers. They also included a 50-cent cigarette tax increase.

Kentucky has the highest smoking rate in the country. It also has one of the highest rates of overdose deaths in the country, mostly attributed to the opioid epidemic.

Rudy said the tax would send "a clear message" the state is serious about the opioid epidemic.

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