Liz McCormick Published

Democratic Lawmakers Look at Tobacco Tax for 2016

Cigarette, tobacco

Democratic members of the House of Delegates met Tuesday to discuss their priorities for the 2016 legislative session.

House Minority Leader, Tim Miley of Harrison County shared a handful of the issues he says his party will propose during the 2016 session, but also made clear which Republican backed bills Democrats will oppose.

Those included a repeal of the state’s prevailing wage, the passage of a right-to-work law, and forced pooling; a measure that allows the natural gas industry to force the sale of certain minerals. 

But Miley says his top priority is to fix the funding issue for PEIA.

PEIA – the Public Employees Insurance Agency – is one of the most prominent insurance providers in the state, and it’s received some major cuts in the past year.

Delegate Mick Bates from Raleigh County wants to make up for the funding cuts by raising the tobacco tax.

“What we’re proposing is an increase in the region for a dollar per pack,” Bates explained, “also expanding that to include all tobacco products including e-cigarettes, so that would be the initial increase. Also moving forward, we would propose adding additional ten cents per year over the course of five years.”

Bates says the initial 120 million dollars would go to PEIA in the first year, preventing many benefit cuts, with an additional $60 million in funding each year after. Bates says it would be a quote, “fix and fund now as well as a fix and fund for the future” solution.

House Minority Leader, Tim Miley says being in the minority could make it difficult to get some of their legislation passed, but he hopes by bringing ideas to the table, their voices will be heard.

“This has to be an educational campaign when it comes to the health of our citizens in this state; that’s really what has to be considered, but when the public is educated on what we think would be a benefit for the overall health to our state, they will in turn communicate that same understanding and appreciation to their legislators and we hope we can have change occur down here,” Miley said.

The 2016 legislative session begins Wednesday, January 13.