Bryant: work continues on tobacco tax, car tags

Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant said when legislators return to the Capitol next month — tentatively set for May 6 — he’s hopeful they will find common ground on a few key areas: car tag relief, a tobacco tax increase and Medicaid.

Bryant, who made a brief stop in Meridian on Monday before traveling to Newton for a Lion’s Club meeting, said the fact that House and Senate leaders are “only 11 cents apart” on the tobacco tax increase gives him hope.

Mississippi’s cigarette excise tax of 18 cents a pack is the third-lowest in the nation.

The House started this year trying to set the tax at $1 a pack, and the Senate started at 49 cents. The Senate has gone up to 64 cents a pack for premium brands and 84 cents a pack for generics. House negotiators have gone down to 75 cents a pack for all cigarettes.

Bryant said May 6 is the tentative date for the full House and Senate to return to Jackson to finish writing a budget for the year that begins July 1.

“Eleven cents doesn’t sound like a lot in the real world but when you start talking about delicate negotiations between House and Senate members and the governor (it’s tough),” Bryant said. “The governor’s not so concerned about the amount of the tax but rather what it will produce so that we don’t come back and artificially inflate what the revenue will be and then come back in a couple of years and say, it didn’t produce what we thought it would and therefore we have another fiscal problem.”

Meridian Star & AP