CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin issued statements Thursday, February 25, on key legislative proposals that will be addressed during the final two weeks of the 2016 Legislative Session.
“During my State of the State address, I presented a structurally sound, fiscally responsible and balanced budget for Fiscal Year 2017 that uses no money from the Rainy Day Fund and does not include any additional across-the-board cuts,” Gov. Tomblin said. “At a time when the state is facing serious budget challenges and after cutting our state’s budget by nearly 20 percent over the past three years, we must seriously consider new revenue opportunities.”
- School Aid Formula
“Senate Bill 452 was a key component of our work to present a balanced budget for Fiscal Year 2017. Under the current law, wealthy counties experiencing growth are able to put local revenues into a special account to support future school construction and maintenance needs. The money they save for those projects is replaced by money from the school aid formula on a dollar-for-dollar match.
“In essence, it means counties struggling with declining student enrollment and funding are subsidizing wealthy, growing counties. For example, according to numbers from the West Virginia Department of Education, Berkeley County will receive $665 more state dollars per student than Boone County during this fiscal year, and Berkeley County will receive $815 more per student than Pocahontas County.
“Senate Bill 452 would have reduced this inequitable appropriation and redirected funds from the state school aid formula to better meet the needs of all school systems. It also would have extended, by three years, the time to replace school buses and fixed a portion of the state code that inappropriately requires counties to increase service personnel salaries based on actions taken in other parts of the state.
“The bill would have re-directed more than $14 million to the General Revenue Fund. It is my hope that members of the Legislature will continue to work on this bill in the coming weeks.”
“I understand West Virginians across the state are concerned about the condition of our roads, and legislation currently being considered in the Senate would help to address these concerns. I am open to discussing an increase in DMV fees and potentially the state’s gasoline tax to collect the new revenues necessary to fund these improvement projects. On the other hand, I am concerned that dedicating sales tax revenue generated by auto-related purchases would leave a shortfall in the General Revenue Fund, and an increase in the state’s sales tax would be difficult at this time.
“I also think we should pay for road construction projects as they are completed, rather than issuing bonds, so we can create jobs in West Virginia for hardworking West Virginians and keep our taxpayer dollars in-state, while dedicating nearly $150 million a year to road maintenance and improvement projects.”
- Concealed Carry
“Last year, I vetoed the concealed carry bill at the urging of law enforcement officers who voiced serious concerns about the consequences of the bill. This year, law enforcement tried to work with legislators to develop a bill to alleviate some of those concerns. I will look at the bill passed by the Legislature this year, but if it does not take law enforcement concerns into consideration, I will likely veto the bill.”
- Tobacco Tax
“During my State of the State address, I proposed increasing the state’s tobacco tax by 45 cents a pack – to a total of $1 – while also increasing the rate for smokeless tobacco and creating a tax on e-cigarettes. I believe that increase would discourage young people from smoking, and it would generate more than $71 million in new revenue without risking a sales tax decrease at retailers in our border counties.
“While I don’t rule out an increase of $1 – to a total of $1.55 – we must consider the potential for adverse impacts on border retailers. Causing West Virginians to travel out of state to purchase cigarettes means they also may buy groceries, gasoline and other everyday products during those trips, reducing sales tax collections and potentially hurting small businesses.”