As West Virginia lawmakers passed a budget in the 11th hour of their 20-day special session something was missing. Leaders of the Coal Industry – and the Governor – has requested a tiered-coal severance tax system. In other words, if time were tough on coal the tax rate would drop. If production was up, taxes would go up too
“And certainly that is the upside for the state. And that’s the whole idea of a tiered tax; it’s what the Governor talked about. It’s when the price goes up, the state benefits. And of course, we love it when the price goes up,” said Bill Raney, President of the West Virginia Coal Association.
But with the state making cuts to higher education and health care, critics say a tax cut for coal is wrong
“And for the coal industry to be out there saying, well you need to give us more money. You need to give us a break, just does not resonate well with me and I don’t think, people in West Virginia,” said Bill Price of the West Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club.
The industry says coal production is back up, bringing 40 million more severance tax dollars than the state projected.
“That’s I think the real advantage. And it may well cause some mines to reopen; that have closed because of the market and the down turn in price,” said Bill Raney of the Coal Association.
Critics aren’t buying it.
“I don’t think the coal industry is going to flourish again. And I think we are taking too big of a risk to give the coal industry a break now,” said Bill Price of the Sierra Club
West Virginia has the highest severance tax on natural resources in the nation.
“The question is not if, but rather when, the legislature might again tackle the issue of a tiered-coal severance task,” said ark Curtis, 59 News Chief Political Reporter.