- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 17, 2016

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - A West Virginia Senate panel wants a bigger tobacco tax hike than Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has proposed.

The Republican-led committee tweaked the Democratic governor’s bill Wednesday. It heads to the Senate floor.

Tomblin’s plan would have raised the cigarette tax by 45 cents to $1, raised a tax on other tobacco products and taxed e-cigarettes. It would have yielded $78 million additional annually and $18.9 million to help balance the 2016 budget.

Instead, senators approved an amendment to increase the tax by $1 to $1.55, and dedicate the money to state employee and retiree health plans. It would bring in $112.5 million more annually, not just $78 million.

Senators said the change would aid health plans beyond 2017.

The Republican-led House has been more hesitant to raise taxes.

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