PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - While lawmakers grapple over a state budget in Jackson, tax collectors say your car tag prices are hanging in limbo. If you're renewing next month, you might run into trouble.
"Anyone who has a July tag renewal coming up the month of July will not get a tag notice until the budget passes," said Jackson County Tax Collector Joe Tucker. "And your legislative credit, we don't know what that will be."
The issue is House Bill 364, better known as the Cigarette Tax bill, that raises legislative credit on car tags from 3%, as it was set May first by the State Tax Commission, 4.25%, using revenue from the heightened cigarette tax.
That bill will decrease the rate you would pay on your tag this year, but House Bill 364 is hinging on the 2010 State Budget. That's still in deliberation less than a week before the new fiscal year.
Tucker said state authorities have sent him an e-mail saying they would not even print July car tag notices until a budget has been signed, which he believes wont happen until at least five days after an agreement has been made.
"I don't see any way that July 1st that we'll be ready to sell car tags, not at 4.25%," Tucker said.
The delay is putting Tucker's office in uncharted, frustrating territory. He said this debacle "is a mess."
"No one has given me in writing any way to handle the July renewals," he said. "The only thing we have gotten is the email stating that the July renewal notices are not going to be printed until the budget is signed. There's so many questions that we don't have answers to."
He said more than 11,000 Jackson County tags are set to be renewed in July, and people are already calling, wanting to know their rates. In this instance, Tucker said his hands are tied.
"We don't know what to tell you," he said. "The budget hasn't been set. The amount of your tag hasn't been set. We can't tell you what it costs."
He offered this advice for people who need to renew soon.
"If it was me, I would wait," he said. "I'd rather get 4.25% discount than a 3%."
Tucker said he believes the troubles his office may face pale in comparison to the problems other state offices will undergo if an agreement isn't reached very soon. He said he would strongly encourage lawmakers to resolve this problem as quickly as they can.