CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin will try to address the Mountain State's substance-abuse problem without raising taxes -- despite the recommendations of an advisory council, appointed by Tomblin, that said raising taxes could help.
Tomblin's Advisory Council on Substance Abuse released a report last week recommending, among other things, that the state consider a tax on alcohol, tobacco and lottery resources to fund the prevention and treatment of substance abuse.
However, during Wednesday night's State of the State address, Tomblin recommended a budget with no new taxes. The governor did not mention the council's suggestion of using a tax.
"We're still coming out of a recession," Tomblin spokeswoman Kimberly Osborne said this week. "As you heard [Wednesday] night, the governor made several significant proposals aimed at substance abuse. This is just a start of a plan to address substance abuse in West Virginia."
The governor said in his speech that he would require that people pass a drug screening before enrolling in tax-funded work-force training programs. He also said the state must use a prescription-monitoring program to stop pill abusers from doctor shopping.
Advocates for an increase in the cigarette tax said they did not expect such an increase to pass during an election year, when politicians don't want their opponents to be able to accuse them of supporting tax increases.
Sen. Dan Foster, D-Kanawha, said that, if not for the election year, the advisory council's recommendations might have given the tax increase a fighting chance.
Last year, efforts to raise the state's cigarette tax by a dollar per pack to fund drug treatment centers were unsuccessful. Similar efforts to raise the beer tax also have failed, Foster.
Besides considering a tax on alcohol, tobacco and lottery resources, the Governor's Substance Abuse Advisory Council's recommendations include monitoring and enforcing options to prevent doctor shopping, accountability related to prescribing and dispensing prescription drugs, and reviewing options to encourage and support people going from recovery to employment, including those who face job discrimination.
Tomblin commissioned the council in September as a way of addressing the state's drug problem.