The Mississippi Senate Friday approved a sweeping bill to increase cigarette taxes and to phase out grocery taxes over several years.
The 36 to 15 vote came after a contentious debate that lasted nearly four hours, capping an unusually busy first week of the 2006 legislative session.
Several senators tried unsuccessfully to remove the cigarette tax change, a move that would have left only the grocery tax elimination. The bill's supporters said such a change would deliver a blow to the state budget.
Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck proposed what she calls the "tax shift," saying it would help all Mississippians who buy groceries, but Gov. Haley Barbour has said he opposes increasing taxes on cigarettes or anything else.
Mississippians currently pay seven percent sales tax on groceries and most other retail items.
Tuck's proposal would cut two and a half percentage points off the grocery tax July 1, 2006, and another one percentage point on July 1, 2007. Then, the grocery taxes would drop one-half of one percentage point each year until they completely disappear in 2014.
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