Members of the House took up a bill Wednesday that would give coal producing counties more control over how they spend those revenues.
House Bill 4668 increases the threshold of coal severance taxes counties can use to pay salaries and employee benefits. State law says only a fourth of those severance dollars can be used to pay personnel, but the bill would increase the allowable share from one-fourth to one-half.
Although it impacts all 55 counties, it was Kanawha County that brought the issue to lawmakers.
Delegate Nancy Guthrie of Kanawha County is one of the sponsors of the bill. She says the Kanawha County Commission uses the tax to pay the salaries of three sheriff’s deputies who patrol the eastern portion of the county.
Unless the county can increase the percentage of the tax used, she says declining tax collections could force the county to cut the pay or even the positions.
“We need to have those deputies in those communities policing and cutting down on crime. That’s really invaluable for a community that has a high drug rate, has a high rate of violence, because of the lack of jobs in that area,” she said.
The bill passed overwhelmingly 99 to 0 and now heads to the Senate.