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Senate guts House revenue proposal

By LACIE PIERSON

The Herald-Dispatch

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Members of the West Virginia Senate on Monday made good on a promise by Senate President Mitch Carmichael to push legislation for proposed tax-and-revenue measures into a conference committee situation.

Sen. Robert Karnes, R-Upshur, talks during a meeting of the West Virginia Senate Select Committee on Tax Reform. The committee voted on Monday to make drastic changes to a tax revenue measure approved by the House of Delegates Friday.
(Photo by Perry Bennett, West Virginia Legislative Photography)

The Senate Committee on Tax Reform advanced House Bill 107, the House of Delegate’s version of the Tax Reform Act of 2017, on Monday after making changes to the measure that more closely resembled the Senate’s Tax Reform Act passed almost a week ago. In the latest version of HB 107, committee members voted to get rid of the sales tax exemptions that were the hallmarks of the House’s bill and replaced them with tax rate increases on the sales tax and corporate net income tax as well as affects an aggregate lower tax rate for the income tax and coal severance tax.The House’s original bill did not affect any tax rates, with the exception of the income tax on Social Security and military retirement income.

The only House provision that lasted through the committee was the three-year phase out of income taxes on Social Security income, but committee members voted to decrease the adjusted gross income that Social Security recipients could make to get the exemption from $100,000 to $75,000.

The measure will move to the Senate Finance Committee, which is expected to meet Tuesday morning.

Carmichael, R-Jackson, said last week senators planned to insert their own tax revenue plan into the House measure, regardless of what delegates approved, to formally set up a scenario for conference committees from each chamber to meet.

When lawmakers in the Senate and the House can’t reach a compromise on a piece of legislation, they have the option of appointing a group of delegates and senators to meet at a designated place and time to reach a compromise on the measure.

House Speaker Tim Armstead said Friday he’d hoped to have informal negotiations with Carmichael and Gov. Jim Justice’s office during the weekend.

Also on Monday, the Senate received the House’s bill to establish methods and employee rights for furloughs of state employees, in the event there is no budget on July 1 of any fiscal year.

Carmichael said last week there wasn’t a lot of support for the measure in the Senate, saying he felt that passing the furlough measure at this point was a signal that lawmakers weren’t going to pass a budget for fiscal year 2018, which begins July 1, 2017.

The measure, House Bill 106, was referred to the Senate Judicary Committee, which did not meet Monday.

Monday was the eighth day of a special legislative session for the 83rd West Virginia Legislature.

The bills that were included in Justice’s proclamation calling for the special session, and those that have been proposed so far, only have dealt with raising revenue for the state, teacher pay raises, and the state employee furlough.

The furlough and general tax revenue measures are the only bills to pass either chamber during the session so far. All of the bills are meant to inform the state’s budget for fiscal year 2018, but an actual budget bill for 2018 hasn’t been proposed by Justice or added to the proclamation.

Fiscal year 2018 begins July 1, 2017, and the state government would shut down if a budget for the fiscal year isn’t passed.

The legislature passed a budget on April 9 that Justice vetoed on April 17.

The current special session began May 4. Lawmakers adjourned May 5, saying they would use the following week to negotiate a tax and budget plan. They reconvened May 15.

The cost for the legislative session is $35,000 per day, if every lawmaker is present in both chambers when both bodies convene. The Senate and the House have not convened each day, with the Senate breaking for two days last week while the House finished its revenue bill. The House of Delegates did not convene Monday.

The Senate is scheduled to reconvene at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, May 23, and the House is set to reconvene at 4 p.m. Tuesday.

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