McCoy: "House Willing to Compromise"

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Speaker Billy McCoy said Tuesday that the Mississippi House is willing to work 24 hours a day to solve Medicaid's budget problems. The health care program for the needy and elderly is set to go broke on Friday.

McCoy and other leaders say the House is willing to compromise by taking some money out of the state health care trust fund.

Gov. Haley Barbour and Senate leaders want to take $200 million from the fund, enough to cover most of Medicaid's $268 million shortfall.

House leaders would not say how much money they're willing to take from the trust fund. They say whatever is removed should be repaid with new revenue from a cigarette tax increase.

Barbour says he opposes any new taxes. The House has passed a bill to add another 50 cents to the current 18 cents a pack in cigarette taxes, but the Senate has not considered the bill.

One of the top House budget writers, Rep. Cecil Brown, said raising the cigarette tax would help prevent Medicaid from having another financial crisis next year.