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Legislative Lookahead: W.Va. state legislators excited for 2018 session


The Herald-Dispatch

HUNTINGTON, W.Va.  – Area legislators are excited to head back to Charleston this week for the start of the 2018 legislative session thanks to the freedom of a positive budget.

Last year, legislators returned with a budget crisis looming over their heads, but estimates for the year have been on target so far and the state has actually generated about 6 percent more than expected in general revenue.

“We are starting in way better shape,” said Del. Matt Rohrbach, R-Cabell. “We can get to the real meat of it without worrying about the financial issues.”

House Speaker Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, said Friday during the West Virginia Press Association’s Legislative Lookahead press conference that he believes the budget will get done in 60 days, without needing to go into any special sessions like last year.

For the first time in the current Capitol building’s history, Republicans have total control over the building thanks to Gov. Jim Justice switching from Democrat to Republican in August.

“I don’t know that because we have control it will mean everything will go smoothly, but it certainly helps,” Armstead said. “I think communication with Gov. Justice has been better since his becoming a Republican. I anticipate a much smoother session than we had last year.”

Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, said he thinks the people of West Virginia will be impressed with the Legislature this year.

As for legislation that excites the leaders, Armstead said there is real potential to pass a bill eliminating the tangible personal property tax, which taxes movable business property like vehicles, inventory and furniture. He said he has been working with the county school systems, the main benefactors of the tax, to come up with a plan everyone can get behind.

The tax would be eliminated over a period of seven years at a cost of about $20 million a year, which would be absorbed by other efficiencies made in the budget.

Armstead also said he wants to take a look at redistricting before it actually needs to be done. He wants to change to one delegate per district.

Carmichael is hoping the Legislature can work hard to create an intermediate appellate court, saying it is one of the things businesses cite as being a hindrance to them moving into the state. West Virginia is one of only nine states that do not have an intermediate appellate court.

Both said they hope to pass legislation that continues to build upon the work they did last session to make the state more attractive to businesses and residents alike. Armstead mentioned $15 million for rebranding the state.

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