For two years in a row, the Mississippi Legislature has tried to change this situation by lowering the tax on food and making up the lost revenue by increasing the tax on cigarettes. Not only does this make logical sense, but it is extremely popular in an election year. Should be a no brainer, right? Not if you're Republican Governor Haley Barbour. He is the ONLY reason the Legislature did not pass this bill. The bill passed the House overwhelmingly and has wide spread bipartisan support in the Senate. However, the Governor promised to veto it, and the Legislature was just shy of enough to override it.
(By the way, all of our local legislators except Republican Representative and Barbour toady Sam Mims, supported the bill.)
Barbour was elected to represent the people of Mississippi, but he seems to have forgotten that. He is much more interested in protecting his friends in Washington. Before becoming Governor, he was a partner in what was the most influential lobbying firm in Washington DC, and he represented all the major tobacco companies. Obviously, they are more important to him than we are.
Does Barbour admit this is why he's against this bill? Of course not. He has two reasons for opposing the bill . Not only are they both ridiculous, but they contradict each other.
- He'll veto it because he promised in his campaign he would not increase taxes. Of course, he has no problem proposing other taxes, like a tax on hospitals - but he calls that an "assessment", not a tax! Well, how about we have an "assessment" on cigarettes.
- He'll veto it because we can't afford a tax cut because of the effect of Katrina. Yeah, right.
Sorry Governor, but you can't have it both ways. Is it a tax cut or a tax increase? Actually, it's neither. It's a tax swap. It was specifically designed to be revenue neutral. There is no reason to oppose this legislation - unless, of course, you're in bed with the tobacco companies.
This is such egregious behavior by our Governor, that it's made the New York Times.
Do you see that? He doesn't have to worry about us, the citizens of Mississippi. Do you know why? He thinks we're too stupid to figure it out. I guess we'll find out in November if we are.
"Gov. Haley Barbour, a former tobacco lobbyist, has other ideas. Studies, polls, protests at the Capitol, legislative sentiment and America’s highest cardiovascular disease rate notwithstanding, the governor of the poorest state is not budging, for the second year in a row: no cut in the 7 percent grocery tax and no increase in the 18-cents-a-pack third-lowest-in-the-nation, cigarette tax. Mr. Barbour, the former Republican National Committee chairman and big-time Washington lobbyist whose clients included the five major tobacco companies, is a busy man these days, and a powerful governor. . . (The veto), to some, is a true measure of Mr. Barbour’s power. He need not worry about political fallout from rejecting what is, in most reckonings, a popular initiative. "