Mississippi House speaker Billy McCoy said Thursday that he and other House leaders are proposing a cigarette tax increase to pay for mental health crisis centers. The plan would add 9 cents a pack.
Mississippi smokers pay an 18 cent per pack tax, one of the lowest rates in the nation.
Because it's so late in the legislative session, House leaders need permission to file a new bill. The House will vote next week on giving that permission.
McCoy said he has not talked to Senate leaders or Gov. Haley Barbour, who have opposed any new taxes.
McCoy said the new tax would generate $21.9 million, enough to run crisis centers that have already been built. Only one center, in Corinth, is partially open.
Meanwhile, smokers in Alabama could be looking at paying higher taxes than they originally thought. The Alabama House passed legislation last week that would double Alabama's 16.5 cents per pack cigarette tax.
A Senate committee had been scheduled to consider the tax hike Thursday, but the committee decided to wait.
Committee Chairman Sen. Roger Bedford said negotiations are going on about increasing the amount as much as five cents more to help balance the state General Fund budget. Bedford said he's hopeful of a compromise next week.
The bill passed by the House would have cost a pack-a-day smoker an additional $60.00 annually. If the amount goes up another five cents that would mean the pack-a-day smoker would pay $78.00.
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