Mississippi Governor Barbour - would add 2-new tobacco taxes to a special session agenda..

June 3, 2009 - Mississippi lawmakers may end legislative session without agreeing on the state spending plan. The new budget begins July 1.

Barbour Barbour, the former Washington lobbyist who represented premium cigarette makers, said Monday, June 1st that if a special session is needed, he might propose additional tobacco taxes that could generate an estimated $20 million a year. That would be a relatively small addition to a nearly $5 billion budget. But Barbour said Mississippi’s overall tax collections in May were “sharply below” where experts originally thought they’d be, and lawmakers are scrounging for every possible dollar so they can avoid laying off state employees or cutting government services.

Barbour last month signed into law Mississippi’s first cigarette excise tax increase since 1985, taking the rate from 18 cents a pack to 68.

At a news conference Monday, the governor said he has been on record since last year supporting a higher tax on cheaper cigarettes made by companies that didn’t participate in Mississippi’s 1997 settlement of a massive lawsuit against the tobacco industry. (1998 Master Settlement Agreement..) He also said he wants smokeless tobacco to be taxed by volume rather than by price. He said with the current method of taxing smokeless products, “the state literally subsidizes cheaper tobacco by giving them a lower tax.”

Barbour said he would add the two new tobacco taxes to a special session agenda if budget negotiators agree there is “a need to add the additional tobacco tax. I don’t have any intention of adding any other taxes to the call, and I don’t anticipate that any other taxes would be part of any agreement.”

Reference: Budget: Gov. Haley Barbour says another tobacco tax possible, The Associated Press, 6/2/2009.

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