Governor Justice calls for a penny-per-ounce soda tax
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice’s second budget swaps lower sales, gas and business gross receipt taxes with higher tobacco taxes and a new sugared drink tax, the Charleston Gazette-Mail reports. “Here’s what it has to be for me: Balance the budget, but don’t cripple us,” he said. The state is currently experiencing a $500 million shortfall in its budget.
Justice’s “Better Health Initiative for West Virginia” would place a penny-per-ounce tax on sugary soda, which would generate an estimated $85 million. That tax wouldn’t apply to sugar-free drinks and would be in addition to the penny soft drink tax that funds the West Virginia University School of Medicine.
The initiative would also increase the state’s cigarette excise tax by 50 cents per pack to $1.70 per pack. West Virginia experienced a 55 cents per pack hike on cigarettes this past July. Justice’s new budget also has bumps in wholesale liquor prices and beer taxes.
Both the West Virginia House and Senate have indicated a willingness to work with the governor on coming to a budget decision soon. House and Senate leaders said that they are “glad the governor has heard the concerns of our constituents with his initial proposals and are heartened to know he is open to alternatives.”