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Senate Approves $1 Tobacco Tax Increase

Perry Bennett
West Virginia Legislative Photography

The state Senate has approved a bill to increase the state's cigarette tax by a dollar beginning in April of this year. Members voted 26 to 6 Tuesday. 

The bill also includes increases in tax rates for other tobacco products, including snuff and vaporized nicotine.

The bill was presented to lawmakers on behalf of Governor Tomblin as a part of his plan to balance the 2016 and 2017 budgets. 

In the 2016 budget year, which ends in June, lawmakers are working to close a $381 million budget shortfall. That shortfall grows to a projected $466 million in the 2017 fiscal year. 

Tomblin's proposal, however, included only a 45 cent per pack increase. Tomblin said he was attempting to balance a need for increased revenues with sales competition in border counties. 

Lawmakers were more concerned about pressing budget issues and upped the tax.

The bill includes a proposal to commit a portion of the income from the cigarette tax to the state Public Employee's Health Insurance Agency beginning in the 2018 fiscal year. 

The bill now heads to the House of Delegates. 

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