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WV Senate OKs tobacco tax hike to Cole’s dismay

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia Senate approved a bill Tuesday that will raise the tax on tobacco to fill a current-year budget gap and fund the Public Employees Insurance Agency’s reserves.

In a bi-partisan effort to solve some of the state’s budget problems — including a $353 million budget shortfall this fiscal year and a $120 million PEIA shortage in next year’s budget — the vote was 26-6, with the Senate President voting in the minority.

Sen. Bill Cole, R-Mercer, said Democrats have “continued to play political gamesmanship with the funding of PEIA.”

“Today’s vote to raise the tobacco tax $1 a pack ultimately will do nothing to fix the problem or fill the budget shortfall,” Cole said in an emailed statement. “A tax increase of that size would hurt our border retailers, and the loss of that tax revenue would more than offset the amount the $1 per pack hike is projected to raise.”

But a dozen members of the GOP voted in favor of the measure…

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