The Clarion-Ledger, 3/24/9

State lawmakers facing a Wednesday deadline are without an agreement on a tobacco tax increase.

House and Senate leaders negotiated briefly Monday on raising Mississippi’s 18-cent cigarette tax. They’re looking for ways to balance the state’s budget amid lagging revenues.

If they don’t reach a compromise by Wednesday, the tax hike won’t happen unless lawmakers agree to extend the deadline.

House and Senate leaders have reached a tentative agreement to spend the tax hike revenue on smoking-cessation programs. Other portions would go to a fund that keeps car-tag costs from rising.

But there is still no deal on how high the tax should be raised.