Mississippi lawmakers have the opportunity to pass a budget and go home, but they are instead piddling around the Capitol wasting taxpayers’ money because they are too afraid of Gov. Haley Barbour to act.
The major issue that remains this session is funding Medicaid, which is in a $100 million hole this fiscal year and needs a revenue stream to stave off future shortfalls.
Barbour supports an “assessment” (read: tax) on private hospitals (which public hospitals are already paying) to fill the gap, but for lawmakers to provide for current and future funding, they need more revenue.
That revenue source is obvious, and enjoys popular support: raising the state’s woefully low 18-cents-per-pack cigarette tax. The Legislature has repeatedly passed bills to raise this tax, one of the lowest in the nation, well below surrounding states, and the public overwhelmingly supports hiking it. Even smokers approve a hike if it will go toward funding health care, polls show.