The Clarion-Ledger Editorial, 3/27/9

Looks like tax revenues for Mississippi are down another $300 million this year. Oh, well.

Wait, estimates are that revenue may be down another $400 million next year. No problem.

That appears to be the attitude of the Mississippi Legislature as it whistles through the graveyard of the 2009 legislative session, waiting on federal stimulus to bail out the state budget and apparently without a care about developing a fiscal policy for the long term.

That can only be the conclusion after House and Senate leaders walked away from the table Wednesday night, failing to come to an agreement on one of the few – perhaps the only – sources for additional revenue: an increase in the state tobacco tax.

As the session began in January, there was general consensus by both House and Senate members, both Republicans and Democrats, that the cigarette tax would be increased. After two sessions of refusing to tackle the issue to override Gov. Haley Barbour’s objections to a tobacco tax hike, the logjam was broken as Barbour relented and legislators eyed the falling revenue. It was not a matter of “if” but “how much,” legislators said.

Apparently, the “how much” has proven more difficult than the “if.”