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House, Senate send revenue bill to conference committee


The Register-Herald

CHARLESTON, W.Va.  — A House-Senate conference committee discussed differences between two versions of the revenue bill after the committee was organized and members appointed in Wednesday floor sessions.

Much of the committee’s discussion focused on triggers for reducing personal income tax.

Delegate Eric Nelson, R-Kanawha, said the committee will meet again Thursday morning where members will prepare a strike and insert amendment and have a financial overview on the plan.

In Wednesday’s floor session, the 13th day of the special session, the Senate and House each appointed five members to a conference committee. Both bodies appointed three Republicans and two Democrats.

In addition to Nelson, the House appointed Delegates Paul Espinosa, R-Jefferson; Carol Miller, R-Cabell; Brent Boggs, D-Braxton; and Dave Pethtel, D-Wetzel.

The Senate appointed Ryan Ferns, R-Ohio; Craig Blair, R-Berkeley; Ed Gaunch, R-Kanawha; Roman Prezioso, D-Marion; and Glenn Jeffries, D-Putnam.

Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, said after Wednesday’s floor session the reason the issue wasn’t brought before a conference committee sooner is because the governor wanted legislators to reach an agreement.

“The governor tried to get involved and see what direction the final form would look and how it would look,” Carmichael said.

In the conference committee, both the House and Senate must vote as a majority to approve. It then goes before the floor to decide whether to accept the committee report and then for final passage if it is approved, Carmichael said.

An attorney for the committee discussed some of the differences in opinion between the House and the Senate.

The Senate’s amendment contains provisions relating to reducing severance tax on coal while the House does not. The Senate amendment increases the sales tax and the House bill leaves it intact.

The Senate eliminates the sales tax exemption on digital goods while the House version does not.

The House bill imposes sales tax on the first $40,000 in labor on contracting services except for people rebuilding from natural disasters. The Senate does not impose a tax on any contracting services.

The Senate also decreases personal income tax brackets and the House bill does not.

 The two versions have a few similarities including imposing sales tax on telecommunications, electronic data processing, health and fitness organizations, and primary opinion research.

Both exempt military retirement from personal income tax and except Social Security from the state income tax but this is done in different ways.

Ferns talked about the caucuses that have gone on through the course of special session, saying the consensus from Tuesday’s meetings is that members are contemplating an increase in the sales tax to 6.5 percent and a decrease in personal income tax over three years at a rate of 7 percent the first year, 7 percent the next year and 6 percent the third year. He said members also talked about eliminating the exemption related to contractors and construction services.

Donnie Adkins, counsel for the committee, said there were other questions of whether the triggers should relate to job, revenue and population growth.

Nick Casey, Gov. Justice’s chief of staff, said there have been discussions related to numbers on the triggers and how it relates to the Consumer Price Index and the level of growth. He said the two possibilities discussed are revenue and job growth triggers.

Boggs asked Casey if there would be any triggers tied to the Rainy Day Fund. Casey said that has not been discussed, saying revenue would be a better way to determine growth.

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