31 May West Virginia: House of Delegates Stops OTP Tax Increase
A victory for tobacconists occurred last week in West Virginia. In an effort to overcome deficits and balance the state budget, S.B. 1005 was amended to, among other things, raise the tax rate for all tobacco products from its current 7% rate to 12%. Sponsored by Senator Jeffrey Kessler (D), the bill was expected to pass after its first and second readings, but its victory in the Senate was a narrow one, passing in a 17-16 vote count. In the House, however, a three-hour debate ensued. Ultimately the House voted against the bill in a 44-55 vote, after hearing strong opposition from both anti-tobacco Democrats and Republicans unwilling to raise taxes. The surprising opposition by anti-tobacco Democrats is a result of their ambitions to not settle and introduce a more substantial tax increase in the future. As such, the fight against tobacco tax increases in West Virginia is far from over.