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Governor predicts tobacco tax will be 'on the table'

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Governor predicts tobacco tax will be 'on the table'
By Jeff Jenkins, WV MetroNews

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin stopped short of saying he’ll propose an increase in the state’s tobacco tax during an appearance on MetroNews “Talkline” Thursday. Tomblin did say the proposal is on the table.

“Because of the budget conditions I think those discussions will be discussed a lot more than what they have been in the last four or five years,” Tomblin predicted.

Tomblin will present what state Revenue Secretary Bob Kiss described as a  “courageous and responsible plan” when lawmakers begin their 60-day regular session next Wednesday. The state is $158 million short on projected revenue collections with a prediction of a $353 million shortfall by June.

When pressed by “Talkline” Host Hoppy Kercheval on whether he would propose a tobacco tax increase to raise revenue Tomblin said a final decision hadn’t yet been made.

“I’ll tell you what I will do, I’m presenting a balanced budget to the legislature and Wednesday night I’ll be sure what I’ll propose,” Tomblin said.

Supporters of a $1.00 increase to the tobacco tax have said it would bring in $130 million a year. The tax is currently 50-cents.

Times are tough. Tomblin has overseen two straight 7.5 percent state budget cuts and ordered a 4 percent cut to the current budget, but things have been worse, he said.

“I think we’re still in better shape than we were in the 80s,” Tomblin said. “State employee insurance cards weren’t being accepted by providers and we had room after room of invoices that we couldn’t pay.”

Tomblin said the state is paying all of its bills now and has a stable Rainy Day Fund.