The Clarion-Ledger, 1/30/9

Mississippi smokers could start paying more for a pack of cigarettes in March if state lawmakers come to a quick agreement on a tax hike bill that advanced again Thursday.

House Bill 365 cleared the full Senate, but not before lawmakers in that chamber lowered the proposed tax increase and earmarked some of the revenue for a fund that keeps car tag costs from rising.

The action likely sets up negotiations between the House and the Senate, and leaders in both chambers said they want to revive talks as soon as possible.

“If we wait until the end of the session, then we’re going to lose millions of dollars,” said House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Percy Watson, D-Hattiesburg.