On Confederate Memorial Day compromise in air

JACSON — Mississippi’s ornate state Capitol was closed Monday for Confederate Memorial Day.

Except for security, a few dedicated staffers and your humble scribe, the Capitol was empty. All that will change Tuesday when House and Senate negotiators trying to reach a compromise on how much — if any — to increase the state’s cigarette tax will meet.

On Confederate Memorial Day, on the eve of the cigarette tax negotiations, there is talk of compromise.

A little recap might be in order. Mississippi’s current cigarette tax is 18 cents per-pack, which is third lowest in the nation at more than $1 below the national average and 46 cents per-pack below the average of the contiguous states.

The House negotiators are proposing a 75-cent-per-pack tax while the Senate negotiators are offering a 64-cent-per-pack tax.

While it has been like pulling teeth, do not be surprised if there is a compromise — finally — on Tuesday. Smart money is at 68 cents per pack.

The fight over increasing the cigarette tax has been ongoing for about four years. This is the closest the House Democratic leadership has come to achieving its goal of increasing the tax.

In the past, It has be blocked by Republican Gov. Haley Barbour and his Republican Senate allies . But Barbour has indicated he will sign a tax increase this year as long as it is based on a conservative estimate of the amount of money the tax will generate.

So on the day set aside to honor those lost in the Civil War, there is talk of compromise on the most divisive issue of recent legislative sessions.