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Tax reform committee urged to raise tobacco taxes

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Tax reform committee urged to raise tobacco taxes
By Jeff Jenkins, MetroNews

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Members of the state legislature’s Select Committee on Tax Reform heard several calls during a public hearing Tuesday to raise the state’s tobacco tax.

“A tax hike on cigarette taxes and other tobacco products is a no brainer,” West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee told the committee. “It would provide a much needed revenue boost when we are in dire need of one but it would also improve the health of our citizens.”

Steven Smith of the West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families Coalition told lawmakers such an increase has broad-based support.

“We even hear from smoker themselves, ‘We know what trouble the state is in. We know the basic services we can’t get. Raise the tobacco tax. It’s worth it,'” Smith said.

Other speakers like Charles Wilfong of the West Virginia Farm Bureau said it’s time to cut spending.

“I think that is going to be the answer in the end—we’ve got more government than we can afford,” he said. “We hope that through this process we can decrease the size of government.”

The committee has held several hours of meetings since the legislative session ended last March. Some items discussed could surface during next year’s legislative session but any significant tax reform may be difficult because of the state’s present economic condition.

The WVEA’s Lee said the labor group supports a fair, more simplified tax system but accomplished with the proper balance.

“We urge caution and careful consideration of the state of our state before taking aggressive actions that could dig a deeper hole which would be so difficult for us to escape,” Lee said.