It’s time to reconsider cigarette tax

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Budgets rarely come wrapped in roses.

But the thorns are easy to find.

Gov. Haley Barbour wasn’t doing cheers, starting the wave or giving false hope Monday night when he spoke to legislators about the thorns before them.

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He told the truth. The state is in dire financial straights, and the national economy doesn’t look to be of any help.

“This will require considerable budget discipline,” Barbour said in his State of the State address. “It means we will have to tell some people ‘no.’ It means some good things won’t get as much funding as some people would like. It’s our job to say ‘no,’ even to our friends and favorite programs.”

That’s clear thinking from the state’s leader, and we are glad to hear him speak it.

But Barbour wants to cut taxes where he can, and it may be time for him to reconsider an idea he’s rejected previously.

Our state needs a lower grocery tax and a higher cigarette tax. The move is politically and financially sound, not to mention the possible health implications.

Barbour didn’t bring the tax swap up Monday night, but we hope it will come across his desk this Legislative session.

Other priorities that Barbour acknowledged Monday included fully funding the Mississippi Adequate Education Act and raising teacher pay. Both issues are vital to future budgets, and we are glad to see Barbour acknowledging their importance.

As legislators dig into the budget, they are bound to get pricked a few times. But we hope they’ll keep education at the forefront and the cigarette tax on the table.