When the rainy day fund grows to 15 percent of the budget, the food tax would be taken off entirely.
The practical effect of the plan would be to encourage some lawmakers to set aside money in the rainy day fund in order to prompt a tax reduction.
Another effect of the plan would be to grow the surplus fund, known as Rainy Day 'A' and free up a second rainy day fund known as Rainy Day 'B' that was created using money from a tobacco settlement.
Alsop said Tomblin is hoping to use interest from that tobacco trust fund to deal with rising medical costs, including budget shortfalls that may be created by the cost of providing Medicaid, the federal and state health insurance program for the poor.
"Gov. Tomblin, I think, ultimately would like to see 'B' go back to its original purpose," Alsop said.
There's about $315 million in 'B,' and the account earns about $40 million a year in interest. But the state faces a $90 million Medicaid shortfall in the 2013 budget year and a $190 million budget shortfall in the 2014 budget year.
If lawmakers begin emptying 'B' to pay for those Medicaid costs, the rating agencies that determine the state's credit rating could downgrade the state's bond rating, making it more expensive to pay for public works projects. That's because the agencies like to see about states with boom-bust economies like West Virginia that are dependent on the energy market have large reserves.
By encouraging lawmakers to set more money aside in 'A,' the state may be able to keep those rating agencies happy.
Contact writer Ry Rivard at ry.riv...@dailymail.com or 304-348-1796.