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Senate Passes Budget, 65 Cent Tobacco Tax Increase

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Nineteen days before a potential government shutdown, the West Virginia Senate passed a budget Saturday on a 24-7 vote. With coal revenues in decline in recent years, state lawmakers have been scrambling to fill a $270 million hole.

The Senate’s version of the budget bill, SB 1013, uses $64.5 million in monies from the Rainy Day Fund.

Governor Earl Ray Tomblin vetoed an earlier version of the budget that tapped $182.6 million from that emergency fund.

To reduce the amount of money needed from the Rainy Day Fund, Senators passed a bill that calls for a 65 cent increase the tax on tobacco products. That tax increase is projected to generate $100 million in revenue annually.

Lawmakers in the upper chamber also passed a bill that reduces distributions to the West Virginia Infrastructure Fund, which would sweep $10 million to the budget for Fiscal Year 2017.

Immediately following the introduction of those three bills, Senators suspended constitutional rules (which calls for legislation to be read on three separate days) and put each bill up for a vote.

All three bills now head to the House of Delegates. That chamber is set to gavel in at 2 p.m. Saturday. 


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