CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — As West Virginia lawmakers debate eliminating the personal income tax, the Senate passed a bill giving severance tax rebates to coal companies.

It’s in an effort to continue encouraging capital investment in the mountain state’s coal industry.

Severance taxes are based on the removal of natural resources and stand at anywhere from 2% to 5% in West Virginia.

“There are still over 8,000 jobs in coal right now and the loss of any portions of those would be significant, so I think the West Virginia government has made whatever changes we thought we could to help the coal business survive,” said Sen. Chandler Swope (R-Mercer).

Swope is co-sponsoring Senate Bill 718 which would give further coal severance tax rebates to coal companies.

He says the economic argument is that the state can’t lose out on taxes if there’s no production to begin with.

“It offers a financial benefit to a company who adds jobs and adds tonnage,” he said.

But Gary Zuckett with the West Virginia Citizens Action Group says the state is in danger of being left behind in the new energy economy taking place by always prioritizing coal.

“So far to my knowledge no solar or wind credits are available anywhere in West Virginia for anything, and I’m wondering since this is Easter if we should be putting all of our eggs in one basket,” he said.

Zuckett adds there aren’t enough studies about the economic impact of these coal severance tax rebates.

“This session we’re debating several major tax bills including the income tax, so at this late in the session without an estimate into how much this is going to cost I wonder if it’s truly wise to be passing something like this.”

Senate Bill 718 now passes to the house finance committee.