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Tobacco tax hike narrowly passes WV Senate

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Chances for passage of a 45-cent-per-pack cigarette tax during the special session took a hit Thursday when the bill (SB 1005) barely survived a 17-16 passage vote in the Senate — and only because staunch anti-tax Sen. Robert Karnes, R-Upshur, left the chamber before the vote.

All but one of the 16 Senate Democrats voted against the bill, on the grounds that the 45-cent increase is insufficient to either deter smoking or close a $270 million gap in the 2016-17 state budget.

“I’m not prepared to let the lunatics take control of the asylum,” Senate Minority Leader Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, said after the vote. “We’ve got to have a full and comprehensive [budget] plan, and that’s what we’re missing.”

Earlier, Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley, complained in the Senate Finance Committee that Senate and House leaders have yet to unveil any plans for balancing the 2016-17 budget, four days into the special session …

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