CHARLESTON, W.Va. — On Wednesday, day 67 of the West Virginia budget impasse, state senators advanced a bill to raise about $78 million a year in new tobacco taxes — but without an amendment Senate leaders said is needed to assure passage in the House of Delegates.
After lengthy, heated debate, Senate Health and Human Resources Chairman Ryan Ferns withdrew his amendment, which would have excluded smokeless tobacco and other non-cigarette tobacco products from the proposed tax increase (SB 1005).
Ferns withdrew the proposal after Sen. Tom Takubo, R-Kanawha and a pulmonary physician, said he wouldn’t support it — a move that negated the Republicans’ razor-thin margin in the Senate.
Without providing specific studies to support his claim, Ferns, R-Ohio, argued that the proposed 12 percent increase in wholesale taxes for smokeless tobacco products would have nominal effect on reducing usage.
“The reality of it is, this is just a politically advantageous way to pass taxes onto the citizens of West Virginia,” Ferns said.
The 45-cent-per-pack increase in cigarette taxes appears to be the only one of three tax increase proposals offered by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin that has any chance of passage in the House…