Effort To Revive Tax Bill Fails - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Jackson 03/20/07

Effort To Revive Tax Bill Fails

A last-ditch effort to bring up a cigarette/grocery tax bill in the Senate failed Tuesday.  Two bills lowering the tax on groceries and raising the tax on cigarettes have died this session. Now with less than two weeks to go in the session, lawmakers attempted to resurrect the issue.

With just 3 votes shy of the 2/3rds majority needed, all hope of passing a tax swap bill this year faded. "Obviously I'm disappointed," said Lt. Governor Amy Tuck. "This is legislation I believe was good public policy."

Tuck hoped lawmakers would vote in favor of the resolution that would have allowed for a new tax bill to be introduced and debated on the Senate floor.

"We've had plenty of chance to address that issue and to do it at the 11th hour in the last 21 days is just wrong," said Sen. Mike Chaney, who says more critical issues need attention. 

Opponents call the tax-swap risky and uncertain. Governor Haley Barbour vetoed two similar bills last session, and said of Tuesday's effort,  "I'm not surprised. The vote is about like it was last time, so we're going to start moving on with the budget."

While the senate never got to debate a tax bill this session, some say today's vote will serve as record for voters, so they know where their lawmakers stand on the issue." 

"Even before the vote, I think it was a campaign issue," said Kimberly Hughes, who's with the American Lung Association. "I don't think we'll hear the end of it in the months to come."

Mississippi continues to have the third lowest tax on cigarettes in the country at 18 cents a pack and the highest tax on groceries at 7 percent.  "That issue is not going to change until we resolve it," said Sen. Alan Nunnelee. "We're going to have to vote on it at some point."

"I do believe eventually we'll see this legislation," said Lt. Gov. Tuck. "I certainly hope. That's my goal."

The governor has said he'll propose ''serious tax cuts'' once the state's post-Katrina economy stabilizes. But he hasn't said when that will be.

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