Gov. Bobby Jindal followed through with his promise to veto the renewal of a 4-cent state tax on cigarettes, characterizing it as a new tax. It was an existing tax set to expire, but that’s just semantics. Now we’ll see if Jindal can marshal his formidable power of persuasion (read, threaten to block public works projects) with some within the overwhelming majority of Republican lawmakers in both the Senate and House who voted for the renewal. Jindal only needs to peel off a few — literally one from the House and four from the Senate — to prevent an override of his veto.

Lawmakers, especially within the GOP, are in something of a pickle: While the tax only generates $12 million annually, that’s still $12 million that will have to be cut elsewhere if the tax is not renewed through a veto override. Any lawmaker who voted for the renewal and then wilts under pressure from the governor’s office — Jindal has called the veto “personal” and has appeal to his fellow Republicans to back him — is agreeing to cut $12 million from the budget in order to lower the price of cigarettes. How do you spin that with voters back home?

As columnist James Gill observed about Jindal in Sunday’s Times-Picayune:

[T]he principle on which he has elected to stand is a highly perverse one, and his main concern remains himself. ...Jindal, in his quest to lower the price of cigarettes in Louisiana, is not only bucking public opinion but setting himself up to be the first governor in decades to suffer the indignity of a legislative override. He is evidently willing to pay the price of maintaining an anti-tax stance even when it defies all reason. Say tax, and Jindal will jump up and shake his head. Pavlov would approve.

Today’s Advocate has more on the veto and possible override, as well as a link to a 1997 article Jindal, then secretary of the state Department of Health and Hospitals, penned for the Louisiana State Medical Society calling for higher sales taxes on cigarettes to offset the cost of health care for smokers. Jindal on Monday declined to comment on the article or what his apparently his ideologically driven one-80 on the issue.

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