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WV Senate panel delays action on tobacco tax hike

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — In the near desperate search for a new revenue stream for West Virginia’s ailing coffers, an increase in tobacco taxes is an oft-repeated potential target.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin proposed a 45 cent per pack increase in the tax, along with a 12 percent increase on smokeless tobacco and a new tax on e-cigarettes in his State of the State address. Smokers would cough up $78 million, and part of the money would be used to help close the $120 million gap in the Public Employees Insurance Agency budget.

But members of the Senate Committee on Finance, after more than an hour of discussion, recessed without voting to move the bill in order to ponder an amendment offered by Sen. Roman Prezioso, D-Marion.

Prezioso moved to have the tax be an additional $1 per pack, with the money to be allocated to PEIA, except for $1 million that would be dedicated to a smoking cessation program administered by the Dept. of Health and Human Resources.

“It’s the trifecta,” Prezioso said. “It takes care of the health problem, the economic problem and the PEIA problem…

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