CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - A state Senate committee on Wednesday advanced a bill aimed at increasing taxes on tobacco products while rejecting a proposal for a 1 percent state sales tax increase.
Lawmakers returned for a 12th day for work on a state budget for the fiscal year starting July 1. The session costs $35,000 a day, a running tab of $420,000.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said Wednesday he was concerned about lawmakers’ “lack of progress” on the state budget. Tomblin called the Republican-led Legislature into session May 16. Without a budget, state government would shut down July 1. A $270 million budget gap remains.
The Senate Finance Committee rejected the sales tax proposal that would have raised nearly $200 million per year but advanced a bill to bring in about $100 million from new taxes on tobacco products. It now goes before the full Senate.
The bill would increase the cigarette tax by 65 cents per pack and taxes on smokeless and other tobacco products from 7 percent to 12 percent. It also would establish a 12 percent tax on e-cigarettes at the point of sale, West Virginia Public Broadcasting (https://bit.ly/24jjzBE ) reported.
Earlier Wednesday, Senate President Bill Cole said he would support the 65-cent increase on cigarettes “because I think it has the best chance of passing on both ends of the Capitol.” Budget negotiations imploded last week when the House of Delegates killed a tax package for tobacco products worth $76 million.
Cole said he believes both Senate and House Democrats are now beginning to see the revenue-increasing measure’s importance.
Meanwhile, Tomblin has added two items for lawmakers to consider.
In a news release, Tomblin said he wanted the Legislature to look at a Department of Environmental Protection rules bill that didn’t pass during the regular session. It addresses new groundwater standards for selenium limits.
Tomblin also included a supplemental bill to allow the Boone County Board of Education to continue to meet its payroll while addressing funding shortfalls caused by a drop in local property tax collections.
Information from: WVPR-FM, https://www.wvpubcast.org/news.aspx
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