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Monday, June 13, 2011

Governor Expected To Veto Cigarette Tax Renewal This Week


It's a bad habit that helps bolster the state budget. Smokers in Louisiana pay an extra 36 cents in state taxes every time they buy a pack. But part of that tax is set to expire next year. And while lawmakers voted to renew it, Governor Bobby Jindal is expected to veto the tax extension early this week.

"It's going to be a very tough fight on both sides," said Clancy DuBos, WWL-TV political analyst and Gambit political columnist.

Because part of the current cigarette tax is set to run out next year, Jindal said considers the renewal to be a tax increase.

"The governor can make, I'm sure, whatever arguments he wants," said DuBos. "But when he says this is a new tax, I don't want to call him a liar, but he couldn't be more wrong. This is an existing tax that's been on the books for years, and it's simply extending the tax at the same level, this is not a new tax."

The four-cent per pack tax brings in about $12 million a year. In a state that's strapped for cash, lawmakers say every penny counts.

"I think it would send the wrong message to the nation that we are stepping backwards by encouraging discount cigarettes usage in this state," said Speaker of the House Rep. Jim Tucker, R- Terrytown.

"I hate that he's put himself and the rest of us in this position," said Rep. Harold Ritchie, D- Bogalusa.

Both Ritchie and Tucker said they'll vote to override the Governor's veto. If they're successful, Jindal will be the first Louisiana governor in nearly 20 years to have a veto overturned. A two-thirds vote in the House and Senate is needed to overturn the veto.

As both sides work to garner the support they need, smokers sounded off on the issue.

"It's not going to make me stop smoking cigarettes, it's just four cents. It's not that much to pay for $12 million coming into the government. We're broke; we need the money," said smoker Neil Cousino.

"Four cents doesn't get you much anywhere else, and I enjoy smoking cigarettes still," said smoker Gretchen Kemp. "So it's not going to buy me a new pair of shoes, if I have four extra cents in my pocket."

It's an extra four cents that's spurring an ongoing battle in Baton Rouge.

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