CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- House Health and Human Resources Chairman Don Perdue, D-Wayne, gave a eulogy Monday for a bill to raise taxes on beer, wine and liquor to fund alcohol and substance abuse treatment programs statewide.
Perdue pulled the bill (HB2016) off his committee's agenda Monday, saying he was disappointed that neither Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's administration nor beer, wine and liquor distributors had embraced the concept.
"Number one, I think it needs to happen," Perdue said. "Number two, I was hopeful the administration would see this as an opportunity to do something profound."
Perdue said he had been hopeful the Tomblin administration would support the bill, in part, because the governor's legislation to curb prison overcrowding (SB371) calls for expanding community-based substance abuse treatment programs for released inmates, at an estimated cost of about $5 million a year.
As governor, however, Tomblin has been adamantly opposed to tax increases of any kind.
Perdue said he was also disappointed industry representatives had not supported the bill.
"I don't want to lose the opportunity I think we had to reinforce to the industry that they can voluntarily step up and be the help we need. They could be supportive of the state of West Virginia at a very, very minimal cost," he said.
The bill would have increased the beer tax from $5.50 to $11 a barrel, and increased the tax on wine from 26.4 cents per liter to 58.8 cents. It would also have required the state Alcohol Beverage Control Administration to raise wholesale prices on liquor distributed by the state to raise $6.5 million a year for the treatment programs.
The revenues would have gone into a Prevention, Intervention, Treatment and Recovery Fund, and the legislation would have set up a state board to distribute those funds to alcohol and substance abuse treatment programs around the state.
The bill now would have to pass both the House Health and Human Resources and Finance committees by the end of the week to have any chance of passage this session, a near-impossibility at this point.
On related matters Monday:
• The Senate passed 33-0 and sent to the House legislation limiting prescriptions for drugs containing hydrocodone to no more than a 30-day supply (SB11). Sen. Evan Jenkins, D-Cabell, said the legislation will be another way to crack down on widespread abuse of the prescription painkiller.
• The House Judiciary Committee advanced to the full House a bill to classify electronic cigarettes as tobacco products under state law (HB2778).
That would make it illegal to sell the so-called e-cigarettes to minors, and for minors to possess the devices.Reach Phil Kabler at ph...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.