Senate narrowly passed cigarette grocery tax bill

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - A bill to increase the state's cigarette tax and reduce the grocery tax passed with a slim margin today in the Senate.

The vote was 29-to-19 -- exactly what was needed for the bill's passage. The legislation was a compromise bill between the House and Senate. It must now be voted on in the House. A vote in that chamber could come as early as Monday.

If approved, the bill would be sent to the governor, who already vetoed a similar bill this session.

Under the bill, the cigarette tax would increase to 80 cents a pack on July 1st and a dollar per pack on July 1st, 2007. The sales tax on groceries would be reduced from seven percent to three-point-five percent on July 1st.

The bill also requires tobacco companies not included in the 1997 lawsuit settlement to pay 43 cents per pack to match what the companies in the settlement now pay.

Also, all cigarette makers would be immune from future lawsuits.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)