- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 2, 2016

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Coal and natural gas tax breaks, higher fees to patch roads, car races at airports and the constitutional right to farm painted the wide array of proposals that met Wednesday’s deadline to stay alive in West Virginia.

Wednesday was the last day in the state’s 60-day legislative session for a bill to pass in either the House or the Senate. Aside from budget bills, proposals that don’t pass at least one chamber by Wednesday are likely be dead.

The session concludes March 12. Here’s a look at what’s still alive and what’s dead:

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TAX HIKES, TAX BREAKS

Bills that cleared the Senate on Wednesday would give coal and natural gas a big tax break; and fix roads by raising the state sales tax, DMV fees and the gas tax. But neither proposal is a sure thing.

One bill would raise about $316 million annually to put into roads. But the more conservative House has been leery of any tax increase bills.

In the proposal, a 1-cent hike to the current 6-cent sales tax would yield the bulk of the money at $200 million.

About $66.3 million would be raised by increasing DMV fees, from driver’s licenses to car titles. Broadening and lowering the privilege tax on car purchases would raise $17 million.

Raising the gas tax by three cents when wholesale prices are $2 or lower, among other adjustments, would yield $33 million.

In the other bill, the coal severance tax would drop from 5 to 4 percent in July 2017, to 3 percent in July 2018. An amendment also gives a similar break to natural gas, which senators admit would likely need to be taken out for the bill to have a shot. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s administration said the coal tax portion alone would cost more than $100 million.

The cash-strapped state is looking at a $384 million budget gap for the 2017 fiscal year, largely fueled by dwindling coal and gas revenue.

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CAR RACES TO LICENSE PLATES

Lawmakers kept alive a hodgepodge of other bills Wednesday.

One would say county officials can permit car races on local roads and at airports. Another calls for amending the state Constitution to spell out a right to farm.

Two of the proposals dealt with specialty license plates.

And a bill passed by the House would let pharmacists prescribe naloxone, which is a life-saving drug for people overdosing on heroin or other drugs.

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ALL BUT DEAD ON ARRIVAL

Some high-profile proposals are as good as dead, barring some legislative resurrection.

Tomblin’s proposed tax on using landlines and cell phones has been deemed dead without a committee hearing. It would have added $60 million a year in revenue by applying the 6 percent sales tax to phone usage, similar to taxes in 41 other states.

After passing the Senate on party lines last year, a proposal to allow charter schools never came up for a committee vote.

Also dead with no consideration is a “forced pooling” proposal to compel mineral rights owners to lease their oil and natural gas resources when other owners on the same tract have already agreed to it.

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