The Clarion-Ledger Editorial, 3/15/9

Two months ago, it seemed a slam dunk that Mississippi would finally raise its 18-cents-per-pack cigarette tax – one of the lowest in the nation. Now, the bill is in a legislative conference committee facing an uncertain fate.

Gov. Haley Barbour and his Tax Study Commission recommended it. There has long been support among the Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives for a cigarette tax hike and it appeared that Senate Republicans were finally on board in the face of the state’s anemic revenue collections.

House Bill 364 increased the cigarette tax to $1 per pack when it cleared the House earlier this year. Senators changed the bill to reflect a 31-cent increase, making the total tax 49 cents per pack.

With Mississippi struggling to fund Medicaid and the Mississippi Adequate Education Program in the face of the staggering revenue shortfall and lingering Medicaid deficits, a cigarette tax seemed as certain as tomato plants on the desks of legislators at the end of the session.