By Andrea Lannom
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Eliminating the business inventory tax will take center stage in the upcoming legislative session, lawmakers said, but they do not anticipate changes to personal income or consumer sales tax to come up this time.
Lawmakers from the House Committee on Finance and the Joint Committee on Tax Reform spoke to the media Friday at the 2018 West Virginia Press Association’s Legislative Lookahead.
Panelists touched on the above estimates revenue numbers that came out Thursday. Six months into the fiscal year, the state’s cumulative General Revenue Fund Collections were $2.7 million above estimate, representing nearly $106 million ahead of where the state was last year.
This was the first time since 2012 that the state’s collections were above estimate at the halfway mark.
“The first six months are more positive,” Delegate Eric Nelson, R-Kanawha, said. “This time last year, we were in the hole $100 million.”
In a later panel, House Speaker Tim Armstead said he is confident in the Legislature’s ability to pass a budget within the 60-day session.
“That was our goal last year and we did pass one in 61 days but it was vetoed,” Armstead said. “We have assurances from the administration and we will come forward with a balanced budget without proposing tax increases. I’m encouraged by that. We took steps last year that were very difficult because we did have to make cuts and no one relished that responsibility. We said we would live in our means and we did live in our means. We are set up this year to have a much easier budget to pass. I’m optimistic. I have not seen the governor’s proposed budget or the revenue numbers but in terms of discussions, I think we will be able to pass a budget in the 60 day session and it will be a budget with no tax increases.”
Delegates Brent Boggs, D-Braxton, and Mick Bates, D-Raleigh, both urged caution even with higher revenue estimates, especially in dealing with eliminating the business inventory tax.
“I am thrilled the budget is coming in better but look at where we were last year,” Boggs said. “That’s why it’s welcome news on the estimate, but we should be very cautious as we move forward that we don’t overreach in trying to do things.”
Boggs said he is in favor of getting rid of the tax but added he wants it done in a responsible way. He said raising property taxes is not an option to remove the inventory tax.
Sen. Ed Gaunch, R-Kanawha, called the business inventory tax the “most onerous tax levied in West Virginia when it comes to business development.”
“In retrospect, I wish we would have started with that last year instead of the personal income tax,” Gaunch said. “I hope this year, we will get to that as it relates to manufacturing.”
Senate President Mitch Carmichael has previously proposed eliminating the tax over a seven-year period, which would have an annual effect of $20 million.
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