CHARLESTON - West Virginians no longer have to pay a sales tax on their groceries.
Legislation repealing the tax on food and food ingredients, if emergency reserves are sufficient, went into effect Monday.
"Many hard-working West Virginians live within a budget, and in order to eliminate the food tax, West Virginia had to do the same. In balancing our own budget, the Rainy Day Fund reached 12.5 percent of the General Revenue Fund at the end of December 2012. By meeting this goal, we can take the final step to eliminate the food tax," Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said in a news release.
The state began phasing out the food tax in 2005 during U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin's first term as governor, when Tomblin was president of the West Virginia Senate. The tax rate fell from 6 cents per dollar spent in 2005 to 3 cents in 2008 and to 1 cent in 2012.
Eliminating the final 1 percent rate will save West Virginia families an average $52 a year. Families have saved a total $162 million a year since the phase-out began, Tomblin said.
"For too long West Virginians have been burdened by a regressive tax on one of life's basic necessities," Tomblin said. "The elimination of the food tax allows families to keep more of their hard-earned money."
West Virginia is now one of 29 states that don't tax food.
"The elimination of the food tax is part of a larger effort to make the tax system fairer, efficient and balanced for both families and businesses," acting State Tax Commissioner Mark Matkovich said in the news release.
Matkovich said eliminating the tax levels the playing field for businesses in border counties that compete with businesses in neighboring states.
The sales tax remains in effect for soft drinks, food bought from vending machines and prepared food.