CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Democrats in the House of Delegates made clear Thursday they have no interest in supporting any tax increases this session, leaving legislators to continue to try other possibilities for closing a $146 million hole in the 2014-15 state budget.
House Speaker Tim Miley, D-Harrison, said there was little support in the House Democratic caucus Thursday morning for either an increase in the cigarette tax or a temporary 1 percent increase in the consumer sales tax.
Earlier, Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, broached the idea of a cigarette tax increase as the least-painful way to close the budget gap without having to make additional cuts to government agencies or make a large raid on the state's Rainy Day emergency revenue funds.
"In my view, we either raise more revenue or take more money out of the Rainy Day Fund or make more cuts, and I don't think anyone wants more cuts," Kessler said Thursday.
Miley said he understood the delegates' reluctance to raise taxes in an election year.
"There's always some fear for all elected officials at all levels if constituents back home will support them if they vote for any tax increase," he said.
Miley said House Finance Chairman Brent Boggs, D-Braxton, is looking at revamping a Tomblin administration bill to free up revenue by reducing a number of state Lottery subsidies (HB4333).
As originally proposed, most statutory transfers -- subsidies to a variety of programs and entities spelled out by percentages in state video lottery law -- would be cut by 15 percent. However, that drew an uproar from greyhound and thoroughbred racing interests, which received $87.6 million in subsidies in fiscal 2013, and from county commissions and municipalities, which received $40.4 million in Lottery funds that year.
Boggs' proposed compromise would reduce the cuts to 10 percent, and exempt municipalities and county commissions from any cuts, Miley said.
It was not clear Thursday how much money that would provide for the General Revenue Fund, but it would be less than the $19.3 million a year in the original bill.