The Clarion-Ledger, 1/10/09 Gov. Haley Barbour’s “Blue Ribbon” Tax Study Commission endorsed a fairly extensive list of both short-term and longer term changes to Mississippi’s tax code. It should come as no surprise, though, that the commission recommended the one thing Gov. Barbour may have wanted from it all along: political cover for increasing the state excise tax on cigarettes.

Ever since then-Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck proposed swapping a higher excise tax on cigarettes for a lower sales tax on groceries, politicians and media pundits have been scrambling to find a way to raise a tax that, at 18 cents per pack, is described as being “among the lowest in the nation” almost as often as Gov. Barbour is referred to as a “former tobacco lobbyist.”

As he is hemmed in by the George H.W. Bush-like pledge of “no new taxes” he campaigned on during his first run for governor and is now facing a revenue shortfall as the state and national economies slide into recession, Gov. Barbour would find the commission’s final report something of a godsend had he not in fact handpicked the people who wrote it.