Houses passes cigarette / grocery tax bill

Cigarette taxes would increase to one dollar a pack and grocery taxes would be cut in half, under a bill passed Thursday by the Mississippi House.

Mississippi has one of the highest grocery taxes in the nation at 7 percent, and one of the lowest tax rates on cigarettes at 18 cents a pack.

The proposal -- passed on a 91-to-27 vote -- would increase the cigarette tax by 62 cents a pack and slash the grocery tax to 3-and one-half percent.

The bill is expected to meet opposition in the state Senate, where it has the support of Lieutenant Governor Amy Tuck. Governor Haley Barbour has said he will veto any proposal that raises taxes.

Barbour, who has also said there is too much uncertainty in the recovery from Hurricane Katrina to change the state's tax structure, vetoed a similar bill last year. Lawmakers failed to garner enough support for an override.

Barbour spokesman Pete Smith says the governor would have no comment on the House vote.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Tommy Robertson of Moss Point, has said he won't bring up the bill unless "there is a reasonable chance it will become law."