Where Is The State Tax On Smokes?

This is an editorial from the South Mississippi Sun-Herald:

Eight days after the Legislature convened this year, the House of Representatives voted 81-39 to increase the state tax on a pack of cigarettes from 18 cents to $1. Before the end of January, the Senate had voted 42-7 to increase the tax from 18 cents to 49 cents.

In early February, conferees from both chambers of the Legislature were named to work out the differences.

Yet more than a month later, with less than a month to go before the legislative session ends on April 4, not only has a compromise not been reached, negotiations have not begun.

Percy Watson of Hattiesburg, the chairman of the House Ways and Means committee, says he and others would rather wait on a dollar tax than settle for a 50-cent one.

That may be smart politics for Watson and other Democrats, but it is dumb public policy.

On April 1, the federal tax on a pack of cigarettes will jump from 39 cents to a fraction over $1. That federal tax hike ought to be coupled with a state tax increase to motivate smokers to quit.

The Senate’s proposed 49-cent per pack tax would match the average tax rate for states bordering Mississippi. It is a good place to start, and the House should embrace it and move on.

PLease look for the GSFP follow-up editorial on the smoking tax.

Yet Another Waste Of Time

And another waste of money.  Mississippi representatives spend a good portion of their time in session thinking of stuff that makes them look good.  Seldom do they seem to care that it will go nowhere except on the their resumes.

The latest piece manure,  HB 666 which reads that a commission to study and make recommendations for the health care of Mississippians.  I will be honest…I cannot remember if this was in the works last session or not.

But how long has Mississippi been at the bottom of the ladder on health care?  You know crap like births, deaths, cost per patient, stuff like that?  But now it is a priority?  Why?  Could be a new president who has said that health care is a priority and the lazy guys and gals in Jackson want to get a piece of the pie.  If that is the case, then it could well pass this time around while dollar signs dance in the politicians heads.

HB666 which states:

AN ACT TO CREATE THE MISSISSIPPI COMMISSION ON HEALTH; TO REQUIRE THE COMMISSION TO REPORT TO THE 2010 REGULAR SESSION OF THE LEGISLATURE AND MAKE RECOMMENDATIONS ON ALL ASPECTS OF HEALTH; TO PROVIDE FOR THE MEMBERSHIP AND APPOINTMENT OF THE MEMBERS OF THE COMMISSION; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.

I ask again, why after so many years of Mississippi being at the bottom of the health care scale is it important now?  If you have a clue….please share…all Mississippians are waiting for someone to have a clue.

CHIP Funds Heading To Mississippi

This from an article written in the Clarion-Ledger:

Mississippi could receive millions more dollars to cover thousands of uninsured children in a recent federal health-care expansion that rewards states for increasing and simplifying enrollment.

The federal-state partnership provides health insurance for children in mostly working families with incomes too high to qualify for Medicaid but too low to afford private coverage.

Under the new law, Mississippi could raise its income threshold to allow more families to qualify for CHIP. Or the state could try to enroll more children who are currently eligible.

CHIP serves 66,172 children at an annual cost of $30 million, according to the state Division of Medicaid. Agency officials say they have not been able to verify how many children in Mississippi are uninsured.

The state’s maximum CHIP eligibility level is set at 200 percent of the federal poverty level, which means children under age 19 in a family of four with an income of up to $42,000 a year may qualify.

The state estimates raising the level to 250 percent of the federal poverty level would allow it to serve 131,686 at an annual cost of $59.2 million. Raising CHIP to 300 percent of the federal poverty level would be an enrollment count of 146,686 at an annual state cost of $65.9 million, according to the Division of Medicaid.

According to the Congressional Research Service, the reauthorization act nearly triples Mississippi’s share of CHIP funds – from $64.1 million in fiscal 2009 under current law to $183.7 million. Rullan said Medicaid has not verified the numbers.

The reauthorization also fixes a funding formula that caused problems for the state, said Therese Hanna, executive director of the Center for Mississippi Health Policy. But the state still must put up its own money to draw down, or match, federal funds.

Mississippi receives $5.90 for every CHIP dollar it puts up, according to Rullan.

State lawmakers are negotiating on a cigarette tax increase to restore cuts made in the state’s current budget, which is $90 million below estimates, and shore up next year’s budget. Some legislators, including Dedeaux, want to use some of the revenue to offset Medicaid costs.

A federal stimulus package making its way through Congress is expected to provide almost $700 million for the state’s Medicaid needs.

A situation to watch and rant about….gonna be a couple of great years for us bloggers.

Note:  Increase anyone is not keeping track…..both Rep. Taylor and Sen. Wicker voted against the bill.

Oh God, Give Me Strength

For years upon years I have been fighting the urge to move out of my state.  I have watched it stay in the 1930’s not really wanting to step out of those days.  I will say that it has made some progress, but not enough for it to take its place in the 21st century.  Its political system is the same system that it had in the 30’s, the “good old boys” system, its people are still some of the least educated because they do wanna go to school, and they settle for menial employment because they are told that is the best they can get.

But now, the crap is really hitting the fan–S-E-X education!  The words that every bible banger has dreaded for 30 years.  For many, many years teachers and the publiuc and especially the legislaors have avoided uttering the words.  But now that bird has come home to roost.

Here comes the religious right’s 19th nervous breakdown–SB 2291

Sex education has emerged as a topic during the first weeks of the legislative session after a recent federal report said Mississippi has the nation’s highest teen birth rate.

Mississippi’s rate was more than 60 percent higher than the national average in 2006, according to new state statistics released earlier this month from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Sexually transmitted diseases also are on the rise in the state, and experts say Mississippi’s perpetual poverty is tied to the number of teenage, single parents.

Openly discussing sex, particularly with teens, is still considered taboo in many circles of the Bible Belt state. State law doesn’t require sex education in public schools.

Rep. Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, is among those opposed to sex education courses that would include information about birth control. Any information beyond simple instruction about the reproductive process should come from parents, he said.

“By teaching kids how to have sex and telling them these techniques, they are endorsing the practice. Abstinence is the way to go,” Gunn said. “All of my beliefs stem from my understanding of Scripture.”

Sexually transmitted diseases are a persistent problem for the state’s youth, according to data from the Department of Health. In 2007, there were 432 new cases of chlamydia in youth ages 10-14. The number was 8,444 for ages 15-19. New cases of gonorrhea were 118 and 2,641, respectively. There were 36 new HIV cases in the 15-19 age group and none among the younger teens.

The growing incidence of teen births places an economic strain on the state, Marianne Hill, a senior economist with the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning, told the House panel last week.

Hill placed the figure at about $150 million in state and federal dollars, based on providing health care, foster care and other expenditures in addition to lost tax revenue and lower earnings.

It would seem that they, the politicians and the religious right, can no longer ignore that 800 lb gorilla standing next to them in the room and now they have to acknowledge the problem.  The old stand-by “ignore it and it will go away” no longer works.

Bad news is that it will be swept under the rug until next session and probably many more sessions to come.  It will not be ignored just made to go to the back of the bus…..for now.

The Problem Of The High Rate Of Obesity

If you recall, last legislative session, the state was attempting to force restaurants to refuse service to overweight people and now this session we have yet another brilliant plan.

Alrighty then–the state has proposed a pilot program to study the problem of the high rate of fat people in the state with congressional bill, HB 1530.  BTW which states:

AN ACT TO ESTABLISH A PILOT PROGRAM DESIGNED TO ADDRESS THE PROBLEM OF THE HIGH RATE OF OBESITY IN MISSISSIPPI, BY PROVIDING FOR THE TREATMENT AND MANAGEMENT OF OBESITY AND RELATED CONDITIONS THROUGH VARIOUS METHODS, INCLUDING THE USE OF BARIATRIC SURGERY AS A TREATMENT OPTION; TO PROVIDE THAT THE PILOT PROGRAM SHALL BE CONDUCTED BY THE MEDICAID PROGRAM AND BY THE STATE AND SCHOOL EMPLOYEES HEALTH INSURANCE PLAN, AT LOCATIONS IN AT LEAST THREE COUNTIES IN THE STATE; TO BRING FORWARD SECTION 25-15-9, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, WHICH PROVIDES FOR THE BENEFITS UNDER THE STATE AND SCHOOL EMPLOYEES HEALTH INSURANCE PLAN; TO BRING FORWARD SECTION 43-13-117.3, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, WHICH PROVIDES FOR A PILOT PROGRAM UNDER MEDICAID TO PROVIDE BARIATRIC SURGERY AS A TREATMENT OPTION IN THE MORBIDLY OBESE; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.

So basically the answer to the problem of fat people is to perform surgery on them.  Is that about right?  We, the taxpayer, will be footing the bill to doctors and hospitals, the same doctors and hospitals that are guilty of overcharging and such, right?  And it will be charged to Medicaid,  the state same program that is taking a hit from the budget cutting knife at this time, right?

Where is the logic in this?

Would not treating the cause be a better way to spend any money?  Do you think that the massive poverty in the state might have something to do with the people’s eating habits?  How about the lack of education?  Could that possibly be a cause?  Would programs addressing poverty and eliminating poverty help more than the intrusion of a scalpel?  Why do the politicians refuse to face this problem head on?

Wicker And Health Care

As the campaigns get stronger and harder, I just wanted to add my two cents. Health Care in the nation’s biggest and most pressing issue and here is Wicker’s stands on health care.

Rated 11% by APHA, indicating a anti-public health voting record:
YES on establishing tax-exempt Medical Savings Accounts:
YES on subsidizing private insurance for Medicare Rx drug coverage:
YES on allowing reimportation of prescription drugs:
YES on capping damages & setting time limits in medical lawsuits:
YES on limited prescription drug benefit for Medicare recipients:
YES on denying non-emergency treatment for lack of Medicare co-pay:
NO on requiring negotiated Rx prices for Medicare part D:
NO on adding 2 to 4 million children to SCHIP eligibility:
NO on allowing tribal Indians to opt out of federal healthcare:
NO on means-testing to determine Medicare Part D premium:

My fellow Mississippians choose your next Senator wisely, your future depends on it!

Mississippi: Barbour And Medicare

The long-awaited report, the last in a series published over the past several years by the committee, found that Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, in particular, frequently made assertions in the run-up to the war that key intelligence agencies could not substantiate or about which there was substantial disagreement within the intelligence community.

“In making the case for war, the administration repeatedly presented intelligence as fact when in reality it was unsubstantiated, contradicted, or even nonexistent,” the Committee chairman, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, said on releasing the 172-page report. “As a result, the American people were led to believe that the threat from Iraq was much greater than actually existed.”

During the special session, the House proposed a more modest 50-cent increase on the excise tax, combined with an equally modest drop in Barbour’s patient tax, though the Senate and Barbour oppose even that. Seeing no immediate compromise, the House then passed a bill using $90 million from Barbour’s prized $378 million “rainy day” fund if accountants decide Medicaid cuts are needed.

Barbour responded by promising a veto of the rainy day bill.

“[I]nstead of taking up the fair and reasonable solution to fully fund Medicaid passed by the Senate … the House has voted to use $90 million in one-time money to pay for the recurring expenses of Medicaid. The purpose of this Special Session is to enact a permanent, sustainable solution for Medicaid funding. The nearly 600,000 Mississippians who depend on Medicaid don’t need a one year band-aid, but that’s what the House leadership has given them,” Barbour said in a statement.

The state’s current tobacco tax stands at 18 cents a pack, which generates about $47 million for the state every year, according to American Lung Association of Mississippi Executive Director Jennifer Cofer. Cofer added that Medicaid spends about $264 million on Mississippi residents with smoking-related health issues like lung cancer every year and called the tobacco tax increase logical.

Barbour said he opposes any tax increase in the state until a special tax study committee thoroughly studies the state’s overall tax structure later this year. Politicos predicted that Barbour—who opposes a tobacco tax increase every year lawmakers propose it—would use the tax study to mire a tobacco-tax proposal.