The Clarion-Ledger, 6/27/8

The chances of increasing cigarette taxes to pay for Medicaid grew slimmer after Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant ruled against a Democrat-led attempt to consider the hike in a special session that resumed Thursday.

Bryant, a Republican who backs a hospital tax plan to fund the health insurance program, said it would be unconstitutional to include a tobacco tax in a special session agenda dictated by Gov. Haley Barbour. Barbour, a Republican and former tobacco lobbyist, is threatening deep cuts in Medicaid if the hospital tax isn’t adopted. He doesn’t want to consider a tobacco hike in the special session.

Bryant’s decision came on the same day health care advocates said their recent survey of 500 Mississippians shows that most support taxing cigarettes instead of hospitals. Hours earlier, top officials in two hospitals told lawmakers the hospital tax formula would cause them to lay off staff, lose millions of dollars and pass extra costs on to patients.