Mar. 15 2006
Washington, DC — By vetoing legislation to increase Mississippi's incredibly low cigarette tax and cut its highest-in-the-nation grocery tax, Governor Haley Barbour has once again put the interests of his former Big Tobacco employers ahead of the interests of Mississippi's kids and families. In vetoing this legislation, Governor Barbour has shown again that he is Big Tobacco's best friend. Nowhere in America has a politician done so much to help the tobacco industry at the expense of the people who elected him. So far this year, Governor Barbour has three times taken actions that directly benefit the tobacco companies, twice vetoing legislation to increase the cigarette tax while reducing or eliminating the grocery tax and proposing also to dismantle the state's tobacco prevention program, which has been one of the most effective in the nation. Governor Barbour's actions will cause more Mississippi kids to start smoking, while making it more expensive for every Mississippi family to put food on the table.
The legislation vetoed today by Governor Barbour would reduce the devastating toll of tobacco in Mississippi while making groceries more affordable for everyone. The Governor has rejected what would be a win-win-win solution for Mississippi - a health win that would reduce tobacco use and save lives, a financial win that would save Mississippi taxpayers money both by reducing tobacco-caused health care costs and their grocery taxes, and a political win that is popular with the voters.
It is critical that the Legislature override the Governor's veto because thousands of lives and millions of dollars are at stake. Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in Mississippi, claiming more than 4,700 lives each year and costing the state $662 million annually in health care bills, including $243 million in Medicaid payments alone. Government expenditures related to tobacco amount to a hidden tax of $528 each year on every Mississippi household.
Mississippi Legislators should heed the wishes of the vast majority of Mississippians who support a cigarette tax increase and grocery tax cut. We urge the Legislature to override Governor Barbour's veto to make it clear to the people of Mississippi that it is their interests, and not the interests of Big Tobacco, that they represent.