Ashton Marra Published

Cole: Budget Session Likely to Include Cigarette Tax Hike


West Virginia’s Senate President says legislative leaders and the governor are inching closer to a budget deal, predicting West Virginia could see a special session as early as next week. 

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s staff said once again Wednesday that he is committed to calling a special session once he and legislative leaders have reached an agreement on how to balance the 2017 budget. 

After day-long meetings Tuesday, Senate President Bill Cole said Wednesday lawmakers are close to reaching that deal.

Cole said the deal will likely include a vote on a 45 cent per pack cigarette tax increase to help bring in new revenues, but will also include cuts and pulling money from the Rainy Day Fund or agency accounts, something Tomblin has expressed concern over.

Cole said a special session could come next week, but if not, it will wait until after the May 10 primary election.

“To me it’s not a political decision, the sooner we get it done the better,” he said. “So, if we can get it done pre-primary we’ll do it and if not, we’ll get it done as quickly after the primary as we can.”

A budget must be approved by state lawmakers by June 30.