CHARLESTON, W.Va. — House Finance Committee members Thursday snuffed out a cigarette tax increase (SB 420) on a 21-3 vote, leaving a $170 million hole in the 2016-17 budget with no immediate funding alternatives to overcome the shortfall.
“We’re turning into a little D.C.,” said House Finance Chairman Eric Nelson, R-Kanawha, comparing the Legislature to ongoing impasses in Congress. “It’s extremely scary, and it’s unfortunate.”
As passed by the Senate on a 26-6 vote, the bill would have raised $115.3 million a year by increasing the cigarette tax by $1 a pack, to $1.55, raising the tax on other tobacco products from 7 percent to 12 percent and imposing a new tax on e-cigarette liquids.
Thursday afternoon, though, House Finance members stripped out the other tax increases and reduced the cigarette tax increase to 45 cents a pack — the amount originally proposed by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, which would have raised about $71 million a year in new tax revenue.
By Thursday evening, a coalition of delegates who thought the 45-cent tax was too low to discourage smoking and delegates who opposed any tax increase at all combined to crush the bill…