No tax pledge delegate says keeping state operating more important

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Lawmakers in Charleston are expected to remain in a special session through next week as they try to find a way to make up a more than $270 million shortfall in next year’s state budget.

The Senate passed an increase in the tobacco tax last Thursday that would rise the tax on a pack of cigarettes by 45 cents, bring the tax on smokeless and chewing tobacco from 7 percent to 12 percent and establish a tax on e-cigarette fluid.

The move will raise an estimated $78 million dollars, but not everyone is on board.

About 20 members of the House have signed a no tax pledge that could mean they will not vote for a tax increase of any kind.

Delegate Saira Blair (R-Berkeley) signed the pledge, but says her first responsibility is to her constituents.

“There’s no part of me that wants to raise taxes, but at the end of the day, I wasn’t elected in order to hold up this pledge that I signed. I was elected to make sure that the citizens of West Virginia can continue on with their regular lives,” Blair said.

Blair said looking for specific cuts to make will simply take too long without the support of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin. She said they plan to cut about $12 million dollars by eliminating unfilled positions.

Blair said Democrats and some Republicans are not being team players when it comes to getting a balanced budget in place and avoiding a government shut down.

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