Forbes, 3/26/9

With a proposed Mississippi cigarette tax up in smoke for now, lawmakers are trying to find an alternative way to restore money to a bankrupt fund that gives drivers a discount on car tags.

A bill to increase the state’s 18-cents-a-pack excise tax on cigarettes died when House and Senate negotiators couldn’t agree on a compromise before a Wednesday night deadline. Part of the revenue from the proposed tax would have been earmarked for the tag fund.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Percy Watson, D-Hattiesburg, said Thursday that with the state budget buckling under the national recession, lawmakers have to find a new revenue source.

“A bill as major as the tobacco tax doesn’t necessarily die on the day it’s scheduled to die,” said Watson, who didn’t go into detail about what he intends to do.