CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- State lawmakers were asked Monday to consider increasing not only the state's main tax on coal but also the fees and fines paid on the trucks that haul that natural resource.
The recommendations were among a half-dozen from the authors of a recent report that concluded that the coal industry is costing the state budget more than it provides.
The West Virginia Center for Budget and Policy and the firm Downstream Strategies presented their findings to a House-Senate legislative interim subcommittee. Their June report estimated that while revenues from the industry topped $600 million during the 2009 budget year, it cost the state $97.4 million more.
The costs included $93 million spent repairing roads damaged by heavy coal trucks, and $173 million worth of tax credits and exemptions.
While calling on the Legislature to revisit the tax breaks, Rory McIlmoil of Downstream Strategies recommended fees on trucks of at least $2.80 per ton hauled. The report estimates that fees now average around 8 cents per ton. McIlmoil also said increasing fines could help deter overweight trucks.
Hiking the severance tax on mined coal from 5 percent to 6 percent, meanwhile, would raise another $75 million annually. The report recommends sending 80 percent of that new revenue to coal-producing counties.
The report drew some of its revenue-related data from a February study of the state's coal economy by researchers at Marshall and West Virginia universities. The lead Marshall contributor to that study warned lawmakers Monday of flaws in the subsequent report.