WVU is “carefully watching” some efforts by West Virginia legislators to repeal or redirect money from the state’s soda tax, said Rob Alsop, the University’s vice president for strategic initiatives.
Alsop said WVU receives around $14 million annually from the tax.
“Obviously, given the budget cuts we’ve already seen, an additional $14 million revenue loss for the University would be difficult,” Alsop said.
While bills in the past intending to lessen the University’s reception of the tax money have failed to pass, Alsop said, “We are always cognizant that there are those who may want to take it and dedicate it for other purposes or repeal the tax.”
Since the legislative session began on Wednesday, bills have already been introduced that would do this. For example, House Bill 2455 would designate tax money to the Public Employees Insurance Agency, which provides health insurance for state employees. HB 2574 would outright repeal the tax.
These bills, which were sent to committees in the House of Delegates, would have to pass through both the Senate and the House of Delegates and then receive approval from the governor to get enacted.
Of the 1,823 bills introduced in the 2019 legislative session, the Legislature passed only 294 of them, and Gov. Jim Justice signed off on 264 of those that passed.
The state Legislature created the soft drink tax in 1951, with the money going to the construction, maintenance and operation of a four-year school of medicine, dentistry and nursing at WVU.
The state places a 1 cent tax on each 16 and nine-tenths fluid ounces of soda, an 80 cent tax on each gallon of soft drink syrup and a 1 cent tax on each 28.35 ounces of dry mixture for making soft drinks.