Senate should vote on cigarette tax

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck has claimed for months that there is no support in the Senate for a cigarette tax increase, but a survey this week shows half would be in favor of a 50-cent per pack increase.

That’s just six votes shy of the two-thirds majority needed to pass an increase.

It at least means senators should have a chance to vote on the issue. As we get closer to a deadline for a budget &045;&045; and lawmakers have to choose what to fund &045;&045; some senators could change their minds. Several said they were on the fence in the survey taken this week.

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Lawmakers have to face it: We are in a bind. We must find ways to increase revenue, because the money we have is not enough.

The Legislature has already slapped a Band-Aid on its Medicaid budget, an issue that will just have to be revisited again next year when the health agency is out of money.

Some lawmakers have argued that the reserve funds many school systems keep means they can accommodate less funding.

But why should we punish school systems who are careful with their money just because the state has not been so frugal in the past?

We cannot continue to devalue education. The children of our state &045;&045; the future of our state &045;&045; demands that we invest in schools.

Sen. Bob M. Dearing of Natchez wants to vote on a tax increase &045;&045; but only if it’s earmarked for education or mental health. That’s fine with us.

Senators should at least be given a chance to vote on whether to increase the cigarette tax.

If it fails, it fails. But if it passes, there’s a good chance lawmakers would be able to fully fund education.