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Tomblin seeks tobacco, telecommunication tax hikes

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin unveiled a budget plan Wednesday that would close more than $820 million in funding shortfalls in this year’s and next year’s budgets, in part, by raising taxes on tobacco and putting a new tax on telecommunications.

Tomblin’s proposed 2016-17 budget bill does not provide any pay raises for state or public school employees — but would provide a total of $43.5 million for employer premiums for the Public Employees Insurance Agency.

That funding would help alleviate pending severe increases in co-pays, deductibles and other costs for employees insured by the state-managed health care plan, state Revenue Secretary Bob Kiss said.

Kiss said the funds would offset about 80 percent to 90 percent of the planned $120 million in benefit cuts proposed by the PEIA Finance Board — cuts that were called “draconian” by one board member. However, under a required 80-20 split on PEIA premiums, there still would be an $8.7 million increase in employee premiums…

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