House passes cigarette tax increase

Associated Press

Mississippi House voted today to increase the state's cigarette excise tax by $1 a pack - but the proposal is likely to die in the Senate later this legislative session.

The House plan would direct money to the financially struggling Medicaid program.

Mississippi now has one of the lowest cigarette excise tax rates in the nation, at 18 cents a pack. The House bill would increase that to $1.18.

The bill passed the House 74-42, barely over the 70 votes it needed.

Governor Haley Barbour has vetoed past cigarette tax legislation. Senate Finance Chairman Dean Kirby, a Republican from Pearl, says he won't consider any tax increases this year.

Even if Kirby were to change his mind and the cigarette tax increase were to pass the Senate, it probably would be vetoed by Barbour.

Overriding a veto would take 82 votes in the 122-member House.

That number could drop if some members were absent or abstained from voting.

House Medicaid Committee Chairman Dirk Dedeaux, a Democrat from Perkinston, said the cigarette tax increase would generate about $174 million a year.

Several health care administrators were at the Capitol to lobby for the cigarette tax increase in hopes of derailing Barbour's plan to impose a hospital bed tax to help pay for Medicaid.