Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Tobacco tax hike cleared by West Virginia Senate

(AP) — West Virginia senators have voted for a bigger tobacco tax hike than Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin proposed.

The Republican-led Senate's 26-6 vote Tuesday sends the bill to the House.

Tomblin's plan would have raised the cigarette tax by 45 cents to $1, raised a tax on other tobacco products and taxed e-cigarettes. It would have yielded $78 million additional annually and $18.9 million to help balance the 2016 budget.

A Senate committee approved a Democratic amendment for the larger cigarette tax increase, by $1 to $1.55. The money would go toward state employee and retiree health plans. It would yield about $115 million more annually, not just $78 million.

Senators said the change would aid health plans beyond 2017.

House GOP leadership has been more hesitant to raise taxes.