CHARLESTON, W.Va. — In a vote Thursday, the state Senate approved part of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s plan to fill a projected $354 million revenue hole in the current state budget.
Senators approved the workers’ compensation bill (SB 419) which takes tax money that’s largely been paid by coal and natural gas to pay off the old workers’ compensation fund debt and move that revenue to help with the current state budget deficit. It will provide $92 million this budget year. The bill discontinues the special tax on the industries on June 30.
The bill, which was approved 34-0, includes a new severance tax rate for the timber industry, 1.22 percent, which will be used to balance the agency’s budget next budget year.
Sen. Herb Snyder (D-Jefferson) pointed out before the vote Thursday what he called an “injustice” associated with the bill. When the special tax was levied on coal, oil, natural gas and timber a few years ago to pay off the workers’ comp debt, the formula also included $11 million a year from the horsemens’ purse fund in the thoroughbred racing industry. That industry isn’t getting that money back as originally promised, Snyder said.
“Everybody else gets their money back that we promised but we’re breaking the promise to the horsemen. That’s what we’re doing and that’s the injustice,” Snyder said.
The bill now goes to the House of Delegates for consideration.