Tobacco taxes to light up Louisiana legislative session Monday
Don Ames Reporting
The Louisiana House Ways and Means Committee will consider legislation Monday that would raise tobacco taxes.
Monroe Representative Katrina Jackson proposes to increase the tax on a pack of cigarettes from 36-cents to 68-cents. Jackson is moving forward with her bill, even
though Governor Jindal has said he'll veto any bill that raises taxes.
"I think that it's premature for a governor to issue statements on what he will and will not veto," Jackson says. "Because that does not give the legislature the opportunity to do the job that the Constitution calls on them to do."
There are four bills on Monday's Ways and Means agenda to increase cigarette taxes. Jackson has two of them. She says one is a constitutional amendment, which would need a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate, and voter approval, but the governor could not veto it.
"I was anticipating that he would say he was going to veto any new revenue. So that's why the constitutional amendment was filed."
Jindal says he would support a higher cigarette tax, if another bill was approved that lowered taxes somewhere else.
Jackson says her proposed cigarette tax hike would bring in 129-million dollars a year in additional revenue. She says that's money the state sorely needs.
"It's necessary to find new revenue, because we have a 1.6 billion dollar deficit in this state."
River Ridge Rep. Kirk Talbot has one of the bills up for consideration. He says it would raise cigarette taxes to those of Mississippi, with one key provision:
"The bill is going to be tied to another bill that eliminates the corporate franchise tax."
Talbot says both are his and both need to pass.
"If the franchise tax fails, then the tobacco tax fails as well. So, they are tied together, and that's the way I'd like to keep it," says Talbot. "The corporate franchise tax is about 85 million dollars. I think this would generate about the same."
Rep. Harold Ritchie has a bill that would hike cigarette taxes to $1.41 a pack and dedicate the money to health care interests and other state funds.
Many states that have raised taxes on cigarettes have reported a drop in the number of smokers as a result.
Mr. Jindal vetoed a 4-cent cigarette tax two years ago.