The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal Editorial, 2/24/9

A funny thing happened during the rush to increase the cigarette tax in Mississippi – the federal stimulus package passed.

When the legislative session began in early January, both House and Senate leaders spoke of the urgency to increase Mississippi’s cigarette tax – the third lowest in the nation – to help with the budget woes caused by the economic slowdown.

But it appears that urgency was replaced with lukewarm interest when President Barack Obama signed the stimulus package into law.

State legislators – both Republican and Democrat – appear to be licking their chops to get the stimulus funds to help with everything from Medicaid to education to highway construction.

Even Republican Gov. Haley Barbour, who has made news nationally by saying he did not want to accept a portion of the funds, has made it clear that he intends to use a vast majority of the stimulus money dedicated for Mississippi.

With all eyes on the stimulus package, increasing the cigarette tax – once the dominant issue of the legislative session – has taken a back seat.