Article Comment 

Just do it: Cigarette tax increase would offer much needed revenue; would offset car tag increase




The state Legislature shouldn''t be faulted for delaying adoption of the state budget as it awaits more information about how to spend the federal economic stimulus money Mississippi is getting. But, to say the least, it''s alarming the House and Senate have been unable to agree on how much to raise the cigarette tax. 


This is costing the state millions of dollars most lawmakers and the governor agree is needed to generate money for the state treasury and to deter people from smoking. 


With the House and Senate just a few cents apart on how high to raise the 18-cent-a-pack tax, it would be sad to see the state lose its chance at having the more than $100 million a cigarette tax would generate. 


With Gov. Haley Barbour supporting an increase - after having killed such legislation with his veto-backed opposition in the past -- the House and Senate passed differing cigarette tax-increase bills in January. The House approved a $1-a-pack tax. The Senate said 49 cents. They had hoped to quickly agree on the new tax rate and enact it so revenues could start flowing by now.  


It''s April and they still haven''t reached a compromise. 


House and Senate leaders have bent, but not enough to satisfy both sides. 


In seeking a compromise, House negotiators have gradually bargained down to 90 cents, 80 cents and 75 cents. Senate leaders have moved up to 55 cents, 60 cents and then 64 cents. Still no deal. Surely one can be made to increase the nation''s third-lowest cigarette tax that''s remained unchanged since 1985. 


The Senate''s latest offer would generate at least $114 million a year in new cigarette tax revenues for the state treasury, according to Senate estimates. 


One key motivation to increase the cigarette tax are the revenues it can generate for the state''s dwindling car-tax reduction fund. The House and Senate want to use about $23 million of the new cigarette money to help keep car-tag prices from doubling - as is being feared if nothing is done. This should be enough impetus for the House and Senate to reach an accord and enact the cigarette tax increase. 


The Legislature recessed April 1 with plans to return later to pass the state budget before the next fiscal year starts in July. They''re awaiting more information about how to spend the $2 billion-plus Mississippi is receiving from the federal economic stimulus package Congress passed in February. 


However, they don''t need to wait on passing a cigarette tax bill. Reach a deal now and just do it.



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Reader Comments

Article Comment george commented at 4/8/2009 10:47:00 PM:

car tags the state buys from the company out of Canada cost the state only $1.00 to make. Can you explain why the tags cost the public so much? This is no better that a gas station trying to price gouge.


Article Comment KJ commented at 4/10/2009 12:02:00 AM:

The car tags pay for much more than the little piece of scrap metal we call a plate. That money flows to municipalities and counties and probably goes into things like roadwork and paperwork, maybe the police and sheriff get some of it. What that money likely isn't doing is offsetting what you pay in property taxes. Unlike the cigarette tax increase, your car tag money pays for stuff related, even peripherally, to your use of the vehicle. Why we can't just raise car tags instead of stealing that money from smokers is beyond me. Invest the smoking tax money in things like the medicare budget, or community counseling, or smoking cessation programs. You know, state expenditures that one could connect to smoking. If people want to drive a high dollar vehicle, then they should pay for it their own damn selves.


Article Comment JC commented at 4/10/2009 6:18:00 AM:

I am with you on that KJ,Smoking is not a smart or health habbit, I also think that Taxes obtained from smokers should go into trusts and funds devoted for the care and needs of those victims and families of smokers(including second hand victims , after all its their money. People are so crooked taking advantage of other people weakness ,that's the reason this country's in the shape that it's in now,because of men that thought they were smarter than others. This money should go towards health and life insurance,family benevolence,cessation programs, and the innocent victims of smokings(second hand smoking)Pay your own taxes.
When we forcefuly make steps to enforce one mans rights we forcefuly step on another mans rights.


Article Comment th commented at 4/10/2009 6:39:00 PM:

Tax cigarettes and help pay for car tags. This helps every1. Smoking hurts every1. Or take that $ and apply it to our energy bills that are about to skyrocket. Use the $ to teach kids the importance of NOT SMOKING. Disinfranchise the smokers! They've been disinfranchising us for too long!


Article Comment NK commented at 4/13/2009 3:01:00 AM:

Raise taxes on fast foods. I smoked until 2 and1/2 years ago. I quit because I didnot want to smoke anymore. Not because someone wanted me to quit. I gained about 25 lbs. I donot feel as healthy as I did before I stopped smoking. I am glad I quit, only, I would never have the nerve to tell another person to quit smoking as long as I am over weight. And I think it would be terrible to raise taxes on someone for smoking. How about raising taxes on fast food and alcohol.


Article Comment SEM commented at 4/14/2009 12:56:00 AM:

Frankly, I think it is a discriminatory practice to hold smokers accountable for every darn thing that goes wrong with the fiscal management of our budgets by local, state and United States Government officials.

Every time some ill managed budget decision is made by these fools, it is decided that smokers should pay the price.

How about evening out the playing field by increasing the sales tax on every thing to 10% making every single person fiscally responsible for the errs on the part of our government.

In doing so, we could do away with 90% of the Internal Revenue Service, and hold drug dealers, prostitutes, and the likes accountable for paying their fair share too.

I am sick and tired of smokers always being the ones to take the hit. It is nothing more than reverse discrimination!


Article Comment anon commented at 4/20/2009 9:34:00 PM:

Last time it was for "health". Before that it was "for the children". This time... for car tags. When all the smokers stop smoking because of these ridiculous taxes, what will be next.

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

Then they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
I did not speak out;
I was not a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out for me.


Article Comment ko commented at 4/20/2009 9:42:00 PM:

From the AP

...smokers die some 10 years earlier than nonsmokers, according to the CDC, and those premature deaths provide a savings to Medicare, Social Security, private pensions and other programs.

Vanderbilt University economist Kip Viscusi studied the net costs of smoking-related spending and savings and found that for every pack of cigarettes smoked, the country reaps a net cost savings of 32 cents.


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