Government, Latest News

Senate and House members agree it’s time to take a break and adjourn until June 5


The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register

WHEELING, W.Va.  — Members of the West Virginia Senate and House of Delegates haven’t agreed on much in recent days, but Wednesday they concurred in adjourning their special session until June 5.

West Virginia Delegate Mark Zatezalo, R-Hancock, left, speaks with Delegate Ed Evans, D-McDowell, Wednesday on the House floor.
(Photo by Perry Bennett, West Virginia Legislative Photo)

The action came on a day that saw the Senate pass the House’s tax reform bill with a number of changes, followed by a unanimous vote in the House to reject the amended bill. No conference committee was appointed to iron out the differences.

Senate Majority Leader Ryan Ferns, R-Ohio, said there are five separate entities involved in the current budget debacle in Charleston — Justice, Senate Republicans and Democrats, and House Republicans and Democrats.

Ferns and Senate Republican leadership planned to remain in Charleston overnight and meet with Gov. Jim Justice today. The governor plans to meet separately with representatives of the other groups over the next 11 days.

“He is going to see if there is room for compromise, and determine the absolute deal-breakers,” Ferns said. “People are getting to the place where they want to reach a compromise.”

Wednesday marked the eighth day in the Senate, and the ninth day in the House, of a special session called for the purposes of setting a 2018 state budget. Each day of the special session costs taxpayers about $35,000.

“The governor and both House and Senate leadership have agreed we should have discussions with Republican and Democrat leaders in both houses to see if we can collectively reach a new path forward to solving our budget and revenue differences,” said House Speaker Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha. “We think this is a positive step and look forward to these discussions. This will also give us time to bring those ideas back to the citizens we represent and gain their input.

“Meanwhile, in order to avoid having to pay 134 lawmakers to be here each day, we feel this adjournment is a sensible step forward to save taxpayer dollars while these discussions continue,” Armstead continued.

House Minority Leader Tim Miley, D-Harrison, said he was ready to work toward a budget solution.

“I look forward to participating in productive negotiations over the next couple of weeks that I hope will help build some consensus between the Legislature and the governor on how to move forward to address this budget crisis,” Miley said. “This is a smart move by the Legislature that will save taxpayer money.”

Lawmakers are constitutionally required to have the budget in place by July 1, but any changes in the state’s sales tax likely would have to be passed a couple weeks earlier to give retailers notice.

Although 33 bills have been introduced during the special session, Wednesday saw the first to make its way through both houses of the Legislature. Senate Bill 1010 would extend the Volunteer Fire Department Workers’ Compensation Premium Subsidy Fund until June 30, 2020.

SB 1010 passed the Senate with a vote of 32-0. Ferns and Sens. Ryan Weld, R-Brooke, and Charles Clements, R-Wetzel all voted in favor. Sen. Mike Maroney, R-Marshall, has been absent throughout the special session, and has missed a total of seven votes on passage of bills.

The vote in the House on SB 1010 was 84-1, with Delegate Patrick McGeehan, R-Hancock, being the only “no” vote. Present and voting “yes” were Delegates Mark Zatezalo, R-Hancock; Phil Diserio, D-Brooke; Erikka Storch, R-Ohio; Shawn Fluharty, D-Ohio; David Pethtel, D-Wetzel; and Roger Romine, R-Tyler.

Delegates Joe Canestraro and Mike Ferro, both D-Marshall, were among 15 House members absent.

Pethtel informed members on the House floor that Ferro’s mother was “gravely ill,” and led the House in a prayer for the Ferro family.

The Senate on Wednesday also passed the amended House Bill 107 — “The Tax Reform Act of 2017” — by a vote of 18-13. Ferns, Clements and Weld voted for the bill in the Senate.

Senate changes in the measure would increase the state sales tax from 6 percent to 7.25 percent, and phase in tax exemptions for Social Security recipients who earn less than $75,000 over the next two years. The corporate net income tax would increase from 6.5 percent to 7 percent under the measure.

House members, however, voted 85-0 to reject the amended bill.

See more from The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register

Comments are closed.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

And get our latest content in your inbox

Invalid email address