JACKSON — The fact that Gov. Haley Barbour refused to say during a recent interview how large of a cigarette tax increase would be acceptable to him is at least interesting and might be enlightening.
House and Senate negotiators are trying to reach a compromise on how much — if any — to increase the cigarette tax. Senate negotiators have cited potential Barbour opposition and a possible veto as a reason to keep the tax increase lower than the House leaders want.
In his budget proposal released last year, Barbour called for a modest 24-cent-per-pack increase.
But when asked recently how high of an increase he would accept, Barbour said, “I will sign a bill that has an honest revenue estimate.” Based on that answer, Barbour seems more concerned that legislators get as accurate an estimate as possible of how much revenue a cigarette tax would generate and cares less about the size of the increase
People who know the Republican governor understand he is far from a shrinking violet. He is not shy about voicing his opinion — especially about possible legislative action he might oppose.
In past years, Barbour has led the successfull effort to prevent the enactment of a cigarette tax increase. But not this year.
The effort to hold down the size of the tax increase is being led right now by Senate leaders and not by Barbour.