Session: Cigarette tax fails in committee - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

Session: Cigarette tax fails in committee

By Caroline Moses - bio | email

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Legislators dove right in to the big issues on their first real day of work this session. One is a proposed tax hike on cigarettes and the governor himself testified in front of legislators about the state's mega fund.

On Monday, legislators were predicting the governor would communicate with them better and more often than he did last year. Tuesday, he testified in a Senate committee and for the first time, stayed for questions from lawmakers.

Governor Jindal asked legislators in a Senate committee to pass a bill that would loosen restrictions on how to spend the state's mega fund. The fund is set aside to attract businesses to the state. The governor wants to use some of that money to save a chicken processing plant in north Louisiana from going bankrupt. Legislators had plenty of concerns about spending tax dollars on this business and not on others. Eventually, they passed Jindal's bill unanimously. Next, it goes to the Senate floor.

There's still talk about Jindal's opening address to the legislature Monday. Some have suggested he gave a "veiled" apology to lawmakers for vetoing their pay raises last year. Jindal said he stands by the veto. "I made the right decision in vetoing it," he said. "As I said the day that I vetoed it and as I've said to legislators, I think we all would have handled it differently if we were given a time machine to go back."

One bill Jindal has been against from the very beginning is the Louisiana Healthier Families. It would increase the state's cigarette tax by $1.00. Jindal says he is opposed to all new taxes, including this one. State Representative Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans, says the tax money would go toward replenishing health care holes in the budget. She also says it would stop smokers from lighting up. "And thereby, decrease in the state of Louisiana health care costs," she said. After hours of debate, her bill failed to pass out of committee, meaning it's finished for the session.

Already on the first day, Governor Jindal was more visible and more involved in the process than last session. Some legislators say they like that and they hope it continues.

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