Senate committee lowers Miss. tobacco tax hike

Legislation that raises Mississippi’s tobacco tax by 31 cents, with part of the revenue used to keep car tag costs from rising, cleared a key Senate panel today.

If the measure survives without any changes, the state’s 18-cent cigarette tax would rise to 49 cents a pack, a significantly lower increase than House lawmakers are proposing.

House Bill 364, which cleared the House earlier this month, would hike the tax to $1 per pack, with the revenue going into the general fund. Members of the Senate Finance Committee voted today to change the House bill to reflect the lower tax hike and use of revenue.

The bill now heads to the Senate floor for debate. It will then enter negotiations with House leaders.

Several committee members said a bigger tax hike is needed to stop smoking. But efforts to raise the tax to 70 cents or $1 failed. So did attempts to include smokeless tobacco.

A bigger hike would “save us hundreds of millions in health care costs in the future,” Sen. David Baria, D-Bay St. Louis, said.

Clarion Ledger