Miss. assessors: Car tag costs will spike

Tax assessors and collectors across Mississippi are urging state lawmakers and Gov. Haley Barbour to resolve a funding shortfall that is expected to result in a significant increase in the price of vehicle tags.

A program established in the mid-1990s to keep the prices down is $25 million short because its primary funding source — car sales —has taken a hit during a national recession.

Jimmie Ladner, legislative chairman of the state Assessors-Collectors Association, said car tags could double in price statewide as a result. He said the price hike depends on the age and value of vehicles, but he expects newer models to experience a significant increase.

House and Senate leaders want to use a proposed cigarette tax hike to fill the shortfall, but they’ve been unable to agree on how much the 18-cent tax should be raised. Lawmakers recessed the 2009 regular legislative session Wednesday 11 cents apart on an agreement.

They will return in early May or June to work on a state spending plan for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

“Because this recess will not halt the negotiation process, the Senate conferees will continue to work with the House toward a reasonable solution,” Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant said in a statement.

House Speaker Billy McCoy said he was disappointed in the lack of compromise, but certain the issue will be resolved.

Clarion-Ledger 4/2/9