The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, 2/6/9

House and Senate leaders are expected to begin negotiations soon over the size of an increase in the cigarette tax.

On Thursday with no debate, the House voted to invite negotiations with the Senate on the cigarette tax. The House has proposed increasing the tax by 82 cents to $1 per pack. The Senate has proposed a more modest 31-cent increase to 49 cents per pack.

Both House and Senate leaders have said they believe it is urgent they reach agreement on the tax increase soon to provide additional revenue to the ailing state tax coffers.

“The sooner we do it, the sooner we start receiving revenue,” said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Dean Kirby, R-Pearl. “It’s just that simple.”

The Legislature is looking for additional funds at a time that general fund tax collections are $90 million below projections for the current fiscal year. And state tax collections appear to be getting worse.