CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Senate has passed and sent to the House a bill that lowers the severance tax on coal and natural gas. SB 705 lowers the current five percent tax by one percent a year for two consecutive fiscal years beginning July 1, 2017. The bill passed 19-15.
“This is a good way for us to tell the coal industry, which is struggling right now to survive, that we believe in you and we’re willing to help,” said Senator Greg Boso (R-Nicholas).
However, two leading coal county Democratic Senators–Ron Stollings from Boone and Art Kirkendoll from Logan–opposed the bill, saying it will take away badly needed tax revenue from communities and provide little help for the industry. (A portion of severance tax collections is distributed to counties.)
“The rug has already been pulled out from under us,” said Stollings. “I put to you that this too little too late and I also say to you that it’s fiscally irresponsible.”
Kirkendoll said, “I’ll be there to support the industry, but this is not the issue that… turns it around.”
Governor Tomblin also opposes the bill. Director of Communications Chris Stadelman said the Governor fears the bill could have a $100 million impact on the budget.
“At a time when the state is already dealing with financial difficulties, additional tax cuts are not something the state can consider at this time,” Stadelman said.
However, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Mike Hall (R-Putnam) said the industry is in need of assistance. “There are some mines… that are looking for a little light at the end of the tunnel.”