Tobacco Tax Bill Pushed to Wednesday in Senate Committee

Feb 16, 2016

After some discussion of possible amendments, members of the Senate Finance Committee decided Tuesday to finish their consideration of a bill to increase the state's tobacco tax Wednesday afternoon.

The bill, introduced on behalf of Governor Tomblin, would increase the tax by 45 cents per pack and also includes various increases for other tobacco products. Members, however, were interested in several amendments to the bill, leading to the recess.

Tomblin presented the bill as a part of his plan to balance both the 2016 and 2017 budgets. That plan also included a 6 percent tax on cell phones and land lines. 

Senate Finance Chair Mike Hall said Tuesday he realized months ago it was time for lawmakers to begin discussing ways to bring more money into the state’s coffers, and whether it’s for health or revenue reasons, Hall believed members of the Legislature are willing to at least consider the tobacco tax hike.

“It’s not as broad based as I would like to see it if we’re going to do a revenue measure," Hall said. "There are broader based taxes possibly that don’t just affect this population, but this is the one that’s been bandied about this building for a long time.”

Amendments discussed Tuesday included dedicating a portion of the funds generated by the increase to funding the state's Public Employee's Health Insurance Agency. That amendment is expected to be discussed further Wednesday.