Facing a spiraling economy and a budget shortfall estimated at between $2 billion and $2.5 billion, Georgia leaders this year must ponder deep budget cuts and possibly tax increases.
As the state General Assembly convenes in Atlanta today, some Republicans are saying no tax increases will pass, but not all proposals are beyond consideration.
For example, boosting the state tax on cigarettes from 37 cents to $1.37 a pack is projected to produce from $500 million to $600 million a year, which would take a nice big bite out of the anticipated budget shortfall.
Does that tax stand a chance of passing?
"I honestly don't know," said Democratic state Rep. Debbie Buckner, who supports the proposal.
The need to balance the state books could give the idea a boost, she said.
"I think now might be the better time to introduce something like that," she said, noting that Georgia's cigarette tax is below other states', and the tax has not been increased in six years.
Beyond the need for revenue, research shows that when the cigarette tax goes up, teen smoking decreases, because the kids can't afford to light up, "which is really why we're doing it," she said.
Republican state Sen. Seth Harp of Columbus said he also felt the tax would look much more attractive this year.
"Look, the governor and the lieutenant governor don't want to raise taxes," Harp acknowledged, but with the budget issue dominating everything, "something's got to give," he said.