W.Va. House passes tobacco tax increase; should avert shutdown

Published: Jun. 13, 2016 at 2:38 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP/WSAZ) -- Likely averting a government shutdown, West Virginia's House of Delegates has approved higher taxes on cigarettes, e-cigarettes and other tobacco products.

The GOP-led House voted 63-35 Monday for the tax hike, worth $98 million toward patching a $270 million budget gap. The Republican-majority Senate already passed the increase in a deal with Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.

It includes a 65-cent per-pack tax increase on cigarettes.

Tuesday's vote shatters an impasse that spurred the ongoing 16-day budget session, costing taxpayers $560,000.

Last month, the House killed a $76 million bill with a smaller tobacco tax hike.

Tomblin vetoed a GOP-passed budget last week. It would've drained $183 million from state savings.

After today's passage, the Governor released the following statement:

"I appreciate the work of all those involved in passing a budget that addresses the state's finances in a responsible manner during difficult times, particularly the bipartisan support that led to the passage of my proposed 65-cent cigarette tax today. This revenue will help address issues with not only the Fiscal Year 2017 budget but projected deficits in future years.

"Based on this afternoon's votes in the House of Delegates, I am expanding the special session call to include two bills that will address PEIA funding, and I look forward to similar support for both these measures. I also am including two additional issues in the amended call, both of which appear to have widespread support in both the Senate and House of Delegates."

A new budget proposal uses $70 million in savings.

Without a budget, the government would shut down July 1.

The governor has also stated that he will be adding two more bills to the special session call to deal with PEIA funding.