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Justice wants tax changes


The Herald-Dispatch

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice issued a list of tax and fee measures, plus a 2 percent raise for the state’s classroom teachers, for lawmakers to consider when they reconvene for a special session at 11 a.m. Thursday, May 4.

The governor on Wednesday issued his official proclamation ordering members of the 83rd West Virginia Legislature to convene in Charleston, where they are expected to come up with a fiscal year 2018 budget with about a month and a half before the fiscal year is set to begin.

The Democrat governor’s call contains tax and other measures he lobbied for during the regular legislative session. Members of the Republican-majority Legislature did not act on those proposals before the session ended April 9.

Justice and legislative majority leaders have been at odds over how to approach the state’s budget for 2018 since the regular legislative session began on Feb. 8.

Justice’s plan includes $450 million more in spending than the GOP’s budget proposals, which rely more on substantial cuts in state funding and no major spending increases compared with the 2017 budget.

In the proclamation, Justice calls for a plan to reclassify and phase out the state’s income tax based on certain events, and he also calls for income tax exemptions for retired military veterans.

Justice also calls for an increase in the state’s sales tax and the corporate net income tax, although by how much isn’t specified.

He also wants legislators to act on:

  • Legislation to temporarily increase the tax rate on people making more than $300,000 a year.
  • A new tier system for coal and natural gas severance taxes.
  • An increase in the tax credits available to businesses that rehabilitate historical structures.
  • An increase in Department of Motor Vehicle fees, road tolls and the gas tax through legislation.
  • A 2 percent increase for classroom teachers.

Lawmakers approved a budget on April 8, but Justice vetoed it on April 13.

That $4.1 billion budget included no tax increases, instead relying on budget cuts and taking $90 million from the state’s Rainy Day Fund.

The bill was passed following a session that included name calling and contentious public statements from Justice and leaders of both parties in the legislative branch.

Following the session, House leaders have expressed disappointment in their rapport with Justice, especially in the wake of a tentative April 8 budget deal Justice announced with Senate leadership, the details of which House leaders were not made privy to prior to the announcement.

House Majority Whip Carol Miller, R-Cabell, said Wednesday that House leaders had met with members of Justice’s executive staff since April 8, but that they only had their first face-to-face meeting with Justice on Tuesday.

Sen. Bob Plymale, D-Cabell, said he understood that members of Senate leadership had met with Justice at least 10 times since the regular session ended.

House and Senate leaders have met with one another since the end of the session, Miller and Plymale said.

If lawmakers fail to pass a budget by midnight on July 1, 2017, the state government would shut down.

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