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WV House rejects tobacco tax hike on 55-44 vote

Charleston Gazette-Mail photo by Kenny Kemp  House of Delegates Speaker Tim Armstead (left) and House Finance Chairman Eric Nelson, both Kanawha County Republicans, talk at the speaker’s podium during debate on a 45-cent increase in West Virginia’s cigarette tax. After more than three hours of debate, delegates rejected the bill on a 55-44 vote, dimming prospects for a budget deal before the state’s next fiscal year begins July 1.
Charleston Gazette-Mail photo by Kenny Kemp
House of Delegates Speaker Tim Armstead (left) and House Finance Chairman Eric Nelson, both Kanawha County Republicans, talk at the speaker’s podium during debate on a 45-cent increase in West Virginia’s cigarette tax. After more than three hours of debate, delegates rejected the bill on a 55-44 vote, dimming prospects for a budget deal before the state’s next fiscal year begins July 1.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Prospects for passage of a 2016-17 state budget suffered a major setback Tuesday, as the West Virginia House of Delegates rejected a bill to raise tobacco taxes to close about $76 million of a $270 million budget shortfall.

As they did earlier this year in the regular legislative session, House Democrats who considered the tax a half-measure insufficient to either solve the budget crisis or deter smoking joined with a band of anti-tax Republicans to defeat the bill (SB 1005) on a 55-44 vote.

“I think the Democrats played political games,” House Speaker Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, said after Tuesday’s vote. “I think the people of West Virginia need to know that — and the people of West Virginia will hold them accountable.”

But House Minority Leader Tim Miley, D-Harrison, said Armstead’s comments were inappropriate, particularly when 20 Republicans also voted against the legislation…

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