Cal Kent, Marshall's vice president of business and economic research, said the June report omits property tax revenues and discounts the overall impact of severance-tax proceeds. Kent also took issue with the way it counted tax exemptions as costs to the state budget.
All told, Kent estimated that the industry provides $490 million more in revenues than costs.
Kent and Marshall researcher Elizabeth Eastham also provided figures showing that West Virginia levies the heaviest tax burden on its coal industry when compared to a dozen other coal-producing states, including all five of its neighbors.
West Virginia, the nation's second-largest producer, taxes coal as real estate at differing rates depending on whether it's actively mined, held in reserve or considered unmineable. Wyoming, the nation's coal leader, does not impose any property taxes on coal land.
But McIlmoil and the budget and policy center's Ted Boettner noted that their report also estimates $4 billion in such "legacy" costs as played-out surface mines that await cleanup and damage to state roads and bridges not yet repaired. It also cites a projected decline in coal production within the next decade and echoes calls for West Virginia to diversify its economy.
Kent told lawmakers that the question of coal's costs merited further study, while Boettner said his group's report aimed to start a dialogue on the subject. Delegate Nancy Guthrie, D-Kanawha, said the subcommittee should request a new study that draws from both reports as well as a third recently issued on the topic, and "determine, once and for all, what the true impact and costs and benefits are from coal."
"Each one of these provides only a snapshot," said Guthrie.