In 2011, Tomblin signed a bill that dropped the food tax to 1 percent in July 2012 and would phase out the tax completely on July 1, 2013 -- Monday -- provided the state's Rainy Day Fund was one-eighth as large as the state general revenue fund. The state met the benchmark last December.
"Our citizens are struggling to make ends meet, and this tax cut will provide them with much needed help in feeding their families," Armstead said. "Every dollar we put back into the pockets of working West Virginians and our retired citizens helps them balance their own budgets, improves the quality of their lives and enhances our overall economy."
Late Monday, state Democratic leaders put out a statement that struck back at Republicans' claim of credit for elimination of the food tax.
"I'm disappointed that the Republicans keep trying to have it both ways. They do nothing but criticize the Democratic majority in the Legislature, except when they're rushing to take credit for landmark legislation that could only be passed by that same Democratic majority," said House Speaker Tim Miley, D-Harrison.
Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, noted that he introduced the bill that eliminated the sales tax at Tomblin's request, and state Democratic Party Chairman Larry Puccio invited Republicans "to join our efforts instead of taking credit for what we have already achieved."
Armstead said the tax cut wouldn't necessarily lead to a sharp decline in revenue.
He said many West Virginians who live in counties that border neighboring states that don't have food sales taxes have been buying groceries out of state. Those shoppers, he predicted, will now buy food closer to home, bolstering West Virginia's economy.
Most states do not impose a sales tax on food. Virginia is the only state that borders West Virginia that has a tax (2.5 percent) on food, according to the Federation of Tax Administrators.
Armstead's colleagues said the food sales tax was a burden on seniors and other West Virginians on a fixed income.
"A food tax is a terrible, regressive tax," said Delegate Carol Miller, R-Cabell.
The elimination of the tax applies only to food that is to be prepared at home. Prepared foods, food from vending machines and soft drinks will still be taxed.
Reach Eric Eyre at erice...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4869.