Expensive tags Tobacco tax revenue could benefit drivers

Mississippi legislators, on returning to Jackson in early May, will face ever more compelling facts supporting a cigarette tax increase, the latest probably the most politically potent: skyrocketing car tag costs.
Mississippi’s state fund offsetting the cost of car tags bought by owners in every county is running low, and tag costs could dramatically increase – a direct, annual out-of-pocket expense to every vehicle owner.
Lawmakers left Jackson for a budget-related recess earlier in April knowing that the car tag issue was looming. Information about plummeting new car sales, the source of sales taxes funding the tag reduction account, became high profile in January. The recession has dealt a heavy blow to auto and truck sales everywhere, including Mississippi.
A cigarette tax increase could be used, in part, to replenish the state car-tag-reduction fund. It is a pocketbook issue with immediacy and quantifiable impact, the kind of taxpayer gripe voters won’t forget heading toward the 2011 statewide campaign.
Legislators had made progress toward an agreement in the joint conference committee negotiating a cigarette tax increase.
Before the recess, the Senate had proposed 75 cents; the Senate had sought 64 cents.
The contiguous state average is 64 cents.
Gov. Barbour on Wednesday said a 42 cents-per-pack increase to 60 cents would fit his calculations for a state budget that includes stimulus spending.
Mississippi, at 18 cents per pack, has the third-lowest cigarette tax in the nation. It has not increased since 1985.
Barbour also said, amp”I hope the Legislature will also enact tax increases on smokeless tobacco products and … cigarette companies (outside the tobacco lawsuit settlement).amp”
We agree, but add cigars.
The first goal of increased tobacco taxation remains reduced use, particularly the start-up among children and adolescents. Raising the price discourages purchases, especially among those like teenagers and children who do not have an independent income.
Smoking, chewing and dipping are personal choices, but they have expensive public consequences when some users – call them addicts – develop tobacco-induced diseases and become Medicaid patients, the tax-paid health insurance coverage embracing 600,000 Mississippians.
The widely respected Mayo Clinic posts Website information with a straightforward warning about nicotine and smoking addiction: amp”… Nicotine dependence brings a host of health problems. While it’s the nicotine in tobacco that keeps you hooked, the toxic effects come mainly from other substances in tobacco. Smokers have significantly higher rates of heart disease, stroke and cancer.amp”
That’s strong medicine favoring a tax increase.
- from the Northeast
Mississippi Daily Journal

Mack Spencer