‘Gov. Bobby Jindal "not fighting" cigarette tax extension grafted onto bill’

The Times-Picayune reports that the renewal of a four-cent cigarette tax is likely to win approval in the legislature, and then move on to a referendum before Louisiana voters.

Sen. John Alario, R-Westwego, said Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration has agreed not to try to strip the cigarette-tax language from his Senate Bill 53, which also would dedicate tobacco-settlement money to the TOPS college scholarship program.

“They’re not fighting it,” Alario said.

The House resurrected the cigarette tax this week by tacking it onto the TOPS amendment, which is a top priority for the governor and a key component of the state budget picture. It came after Jindal vetoed a separate bill that would have permanently extended the tax, which generates about $12 million a year, and the House failed to override the veto.

Jindal said extending the tax is the same as an increase and would violate his promise to oppose all tax increases. Although two-thirds majorities in the House and Senate had agreed to the bill, the governor was able to persuade 11 House members who supported the original bill to switch sides and vote against the override.

By adding the tax language to a constitutional amendment, supporters were able to circumvent a possible veto because amendments go straight to voters and do not require a governor’s signature.

Comments

Report: 'Showdown on cigarette taxes, unemployment benefits today at Capitol'

The Times-Picayune’s Jan Moller previews the action expected Monday in the legislature.

As ever, the question is, “how to fund state government?”

By the time the House adjourns this evening, one of the following will almost certainly be true:
a) The (not so) great tax debate of 2009 will be pretty much done with after House Bill 889, which would raise cigarette taxes by 50 cents a pack, fails to get the 70 votes needed to send it to the Senate.

- Or -

b) The debate will be very much alive after the bill by Speaker Pro Tem Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans, goes to the Senate with enough votes to override an expected veto from Gov. Bobby Jindal.

While most of the smart money is on option (a), the smart money hasn’t always been right this session, as everyone learned Thursday when the House unexpectedly ratified the Senate’s version of the $28.7 billion state budget and threw the state spending picture into the kind of disarray we haven’t seen for several years around the Capitol.

Comments