The Clarion-Ledger Editorial, 1/18/9

After years of sharp divisions and gubernatorial vetoes over raising the cigarette tax, the Mississippi Legislature began the 2009 session with general consensus that a tobacco tax hike would be approved. “Not if, but how much,” was the often repeated comment by lawmakers.

The “how much” part may be the hard part.

The tobacco tax got its first test last week in the Mississippi House. After a lengthy debate and some test votes on amounts, House members approved a $1 per pack tax, a traditional position of House Democrats and advocacy groups.

House Republicans had countered with a 60-cent tax.

There is a lot of room for negotiation on the “how much.” Currently, Mississippi has the third lowest tobacco tax in the nation at 18-cents a pack.