Legislators are tripping over each other trying to spend revenue from an anticipated increase in the cigarette tax.
With state tax collections declining because of the slumping economy, revenue from a cigarette tax increase might be the only new money legislators have to spend during the 2009 session.
In recent years, the House Democratic leadership and some members of the Senate have fought to raise the state’s 18-cent per pack cigarette tax, which is the third lowest in the country and about $1 below the national average.
But each year, either directly or indirectly, Republican Gov. Haley Barbour has blocked the efforts. This year, Barbour said he will support hiking the cigarette tax.
With that pronouncement, everyone has an idea how the money should be spent even though legislation to raise the embarrassingly low tax is far from becoming law.
Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant and a host of Republican legislators have talked about cutting another tax and offsetting the lost revenue with a cigarette tax increase.