Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin signed a bill Thursday that will increase the amount of coal severance tax money going to coal producing counties. The measure will dedicate a share of relevant severance tax revenues to the 30 or so counties that actively produce coal. In comments to the media, Mark Muchow, of the State Tax Department, noted that five of these counties account for more than half of the coal produced over the last 10 years: Boone, Mingo, Kanawha, Logan and Monongalia.

Starting in July 2012, the state will deposit 1 percent of severance tax revenues into a special account for these counties. The share will increase annually, a percentage point at a time, until it reaches 5 percent in as many years. The annual yield is also capped at $20 million after those five years.  Counties can draw down funds based on their share of the coal produced, but only for economic development projects and infrastructure.

"This is a good day for southern West Virginia, that's for sure," said Delegate Josh Stowers, a Lincoln County Democrat whose district also includes Logan and parts of Boone and Putnam counties. "This is a quality of life bill, when you start talking about the things that this money is going to go toward -- water and sewer and road repair, and some potential economic development."

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