The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, 1/2/9

When the Mississippi Legislature opens the 2009 session Tuesday, members will begin grappling with a state budget rife with pitfalls.

While there is always uncertainty and disagreement over how to fund the state budget, this year uncertainty exists even where there is agreement.

For instance, almost all agree that the cigarette tax will be increased in 2009.

A cigarette tax could help fund the state budget. But a debate is developing over the amount of the increase and about how that money should be spent – to help shore up a cash-strapped state or to provide a tax cut in another area.

And then there is the state rainy day fund. All agree the fund must be tapped to buttress a budget facing shortfalls caused by a slowdown in state tax collections. But how much should be taken from the fund?

“We do have a tough time with the budget this year, but we’re going to make it,” House Speaker Billy McCoy, D-Rienzi, said recently. “We’re going to make it and provide essential services.”