The Clarion-Ledger, 1/1/9

Mississippi smokers and tobacco users may avoid a tax increase this year unless lawmakers reach a compromise when they return to work next week.

Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant said Wednesday a tobacco tax hike is “not a done deal.” He said he and other Republicans in the Senate want to offset the hike with a cut in income, inventory or property taxes for the elderly.

“If you’re going to generate additional revenue on a tax increase, we want to go back, as Republicans, and say, ‘Yes, but we lowered taxes,'” he told reporters in a pre-legislative meeting.

His comments appeared to contradict previous statements about the tax hike’s passage. And they raised questions about whether taxes should be tweaked in an uncertain economy that has prompted lagging revenues and budget-trimming.