WISE — A proposal from Gov. Ralph Northam that could have put $6.5 million a year into some of UVA Wise’s programs died on Wednesday in the General Assembly.
The state Senate killed Northam’s proposal to dedicate revenue from phasing out three state coal tax employment, production and use credits on a 26-14 vote in Wednesday’s veto session.
Details on the Senate roll call vote were not available on Wednesday evening on the state Legislative Information system.
The House of Delegates agreed on a motion to pass by Northam’s recommendation.
Northam on March 31 announced his proposed modification to identical bills HB 1899 and SB 1252, which would phase out tax credits for Virginia-mined metallurgical coal and coalbed methane and the purchase and use of Virginia coal bought by electricity producers.
Northam’s plan would have put the resulting revenue — as much as $6.5 million a year starting in fiscal year 2026 — into UVA Wise’s coffers for expanding the college’s data science, computer science and renewable energy course offerings.
“We were surprised by Gov. Northam’s amendment last week, but we are also not surprised to learn on Wednesday that the legislature did not approve his amendment,” UVA Wise Communications Director Kathy Still said on Wednesday. “The phase out of the Coal Employment and Production Incentive Coal Tax Credit is a loss to the region’s coal industry. We can only hope the region eventually receives a financial benefit from the sunsetting of the coal tax credit in future state budgets.”
First District Del. Terry Kilgore, R-Gate City, said on Wednesday that a Democratic delegate passed by Northam’s amendment to HB 1899, thus killing Northam’s plan in the House.
“While I was supportive of the intent of the amendment that would have kept money in Southwest Virginia, this amendment did not guarantee the funds would go to UVA Wise since it was not a part of the 2021 budget that passed the General Assembly,” Kilgore said. “This issue will have to be addressed in future sessions of the General Assembly, and I will work to ensure that this money stays in the region.”
The status of the two identical bills, which passed the General Assembly before Northam’s recommended change, remained uncertain on Wednesday.
The Kingsport Times News reached out to 40th District Sen. Todd Pillion for comment on Wednesday’s vote.
Pillion, R-Abingdon, called Northam’s proposal a “narrowly crafted policy statement” following no provision to help Southwest Virginia in the original bills.
“The bipartisan vote in the Senate to reject the amendment and the motion to pass by the adoption of the amendment in the House made it clear the Governor’s idea was simply that, his idea,” Pillion said.
Pillion called on the stakeholder review process included in SB1252 to look at ways to fund infrastructure, economic development and educational or workforce programs at UVA Wise and the region’s community colleges.