- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 18, 2016

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - The Latest on West Virginia’s budget session (all times local):

5:31 p.m.

Speaker Tim Armstead says the West Virginia House will vote on a tobacco tax increase, and he believes it will pass.

The Kanawha County Republican also told reporters Wednesday he will support the 45-cent per-pack cigarette tax increase. If it doesn’t pass, he said lawmakers will have to look for additional budget cuts to help bridge a $270 million gap.

The Senate will vote on the tobacco tax Thursday. The tax increase on cigarettes, e-cigarettes and other tobacco products would produce $78 million annually.

House Democrats may oppose the 45-cent increase. Some only favor a $1 increase.

Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin called the GOP-led Legislature into budget session Monday. Lawmakers finished their third day in session without a budget Wednesday.

Each day of session costs about $35,000.

The next fiscal year starts July 1.


3:50 p.m.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has introduced a bill to allow furloughs during emergencies, including if there’s no budget agreement by July 1 and many state government functions are forced to shut down.

The Democrat told reporters Wednesday that the bill would avoid a scenario without a budget where all state employees would lose their jobs and have to be rehired later.

Tomblin said he is also seeking the ability to pay debt services and extremely important positions, like at prisons and hospitals. The bill would let him furlough everyone else to avoid layoffs.

Tomblin and the Republican-led Legislature still think a budget can pass before July 1, the start of the new fiscal year.

Tomblin called lawmakers into budget session Monday. Discussions continue about a variety of tax increases, cuts and use of reserves.


1:20 p.m.

Republican legislative leaders are asking Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin for more options during the ongoing budget session.

In a letter Tuesday, Senate President Bill Cole and House Speaker Tim Armstead named other options to close a $270 million gap.

Among them are $10 million from an infrastructure fund; eliminating the secretary of the arts and education, worth $852,000; and $16 million in greyhound subsidies.

They want to revive bills introduced by Tomblin this year that would change the school aid formula, worth $15 million, and take $9 million in casino funding. Lawmakers previously killed the bills.

Tomblin has proposed tax increases on tobacco and e-cigarettes, cellphone and landline use, and sales.

Tomblin’s response letter says he’s willing to discuss new items if lawmakers outline their alternative budget plan.

Tomblin called them into session Monday.

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