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Lawmakers walk out of morning meeting


The Register-Herald

CHARLESTON, W.Va.  — Tempers flared and some lawmakers left the room in a meeting with the governor where he unveiled a new plan to reduce personal income tax and increase the consumer sales tax.

Thursday morning’s meeting with the governor, also intended to find common ground on passing a budget, started around 10 a.m. with several delegates and senators in attendance.

Some, like Delegate Shawn Fluharty, D-Ohio, alleged the meeting violated the state’s open meetings law because, he said, said a quorum of senators was present. Media were not invited into the room, but the meeting would have been open to them if a Senate quorum were present.

 However, Justice disputed that claim, saying he didn’t know how many senators attended, but estimated eight to 10. He didn’t think a quorum was there.

Some delegates and senators later walked out of the meeting after comments made by Sen. Robert Karnes, R-Upshur.

Afterward, Justice commented, “Well, to be perfectly honest, it went fine, until Sen. Karnes stood up and made an idiot of himself and that’s all there is to it. He made everybody mad and Robert is a good guy. He’s a real intelligent guy and I’ve told him before when he talks, he just makes a lot of people mad.”

Karnes said, “I pointed out that guys pretend like they’re out there for the little guy and the fact of the matter is that the little guy has given up hope that the Democrat party has offered up any solutions that West Virginia faces and that they’ve voted Democrats in the extreme minority because they don’t like them and don’t trust them anymore.”

The senator said he didn’t want to respond to the governor’s comments, but instead applauded him for sticking with personal income tax. He said he felt there was a lot of “demagoguery” that prompted his remarks and Karnes criticized the people who left the room.

“I think they acted like the children they are,” he said.

Karnes said he has concerns about the governor’s new plan regarding personal income tax reductions.

“The issue is not necessarily the 20 percent over four years,” Karnes said. ‘It’s a deliberate effort to blunt a significant part of the tax reform effort by denying high income earners a tax break. It’s very populist to say let’s give low income earners a tax break. I have no problem with that at all. The reality is if we want to get West Virginia’s economy growing, then we have to help job creators. People consistently in the House and Senate and the other side of the aisle are trying to deny the very people who create jobs any relief in this tax reform effort.”

House Speaker Tim Armstead said he thinks the presence of lobbyists in the meeting offended some Senate and House members

“They brought us in with a room full of lobbyists and others that he had invited to come and be at this meeting,” Armstead said. “They weren’t part of the discussion. They were just there around the room. It’s obvious to me that that was done in an attempt to pressure members to support his plan and that simply did not go over well in that meeting.”

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