Our Views: Jindal switch on cigarettes

Then: Gov. Bobby Jindal vetoed four-cent renewal of the state tax on a pack of cigarettes.

Now: Gov. Bobby Jindal says he’s open to a significant increase in cigarette taxes.

No wonder many of his critics, and not a few of his friends, wonder at the apparent inconsistency. They wonder because he was against cigarette taxes when he was seeking re-election, and now is for them, having been safely re-elected.

The liberal critics, Louisiana Progress, called it “tax whiplash.”

For Jindal, though, it is not an inconsistency. As a part of a larger tax swap — higher consumption taxes to replace revenue lost from income tax cuts — it is not an ideological problem.

“We’ve always said that we would be fine (with) it if it was done in a revenue-neutral way, and we are willing to consider this and other changes as part of a larger effort to eliminate the income tax in a revenue-neutral way,” the governor said in a prepared statement.

Leaving aside the merit of a tobacco tax increase — and we think there is a lot of merit in it — this sort of then-and-now approach to policy is bound to be disconcerting for smokers, and everyone else. After all, Jindal was the only governor in the nation we’re aware of who championed lowering the tax on cigarettes. Almost every other governor was in favor of raising cigarette taxes, on both revenue and public-health grounds.

But implicit in all this is the false premise of Jindal’s previous stand on the renewal. It was not a new tax, but an old one, and the revenue was part of keeping the budget “revenue-neutral,” to borrow Jindal’s phrase.

If that rationale sounded phony then, it seems more so in light of that-was-then.