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In the midst of a debt crisis, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has vetoed the renewal of a four-cent cigarette tax increase, and might face the state legislature’s first override in 18 years.Jindal explained that the bill violated his “commitment to the taxpayers of Louisiana to oppose all attempts to raise taxes.” The tax has been in place for the last eleven years.
This decision marks an about-face from a 1997 article Jindal published in the Journal for the Louisiana Medical Society encouraging lawmakers to “tax the smokers.” At that time, he was Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals.
Both houses of the state legislature approved the tax extension by a two-thirds margin. They are also coping with an immediate $1 billion deficit and a $1.6 billion hole in next year’s budget.
Though the $12 million generated by the tax on a yearly basis is a pittance in comparison to the size of Louisiana’s deficit, the Republican governor’s veto has left both Democrats and Republicans scratching their heads.
“I think it’s a mistake to lower the tax on cigarettes,” House Speaker and Republican Jim Tucker said. “Louisiana is accused of being backwards all the time. This vote [to eliminate the tax] would easily support that position.”
The state Senate is expected to vote today on whether to override the governor’s veto.
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