Wednesday, Iowa Governor Chet Culver signed into law a bill that raises cigarette taxes by $1 a pack and also increases taxes on various other tobacco products. The Governor predicts that the new $1.36 tax will cause 20,000 Iowans to quit smoking and prevent twice as many from ever picking up the habit. The tax increase goes into effect immediately and revenues generated are expected to be used for healthcare. Unfortunately, evidence from other states shows that revenues generated from this regressive tax will decline over time.
In Mississippi, a proposal to swap a cigarette tax hike for a sales tax cut appears to be dead for the second time. While promising to propose a "serious tax cut" in the future, Governor Haley Barbour refused to support a bill that would increase the state's cigarette tax from 18 cents to $1 and cut the tax on groceries by half. The problems with Mississippi's tax code go beyond sales and excise taxes, so perhaps now is the time for discussing a complete overhaul of Mississippi's tax structure.