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WV House postpones action on tax bill, plans to work Senate version


The State Journal

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Members of the West Virginia House of Delegates postponed action on a tax reform bill Wednesday, March 29, preferring to work on a tax bill passed earlier in the day by the state Senate.

House Bill 2933, which would have lowered the state sales tax from 6 percent to 5.5 percent, but also would have removed a number of tax exemptions, had originally been scheduled for a vote on Tuesday. The House moved the bill to the bottom of the agenda again on Wednesday, eventually deciding to postpone action once again late in the day.

Wednesday was the last day a bill could be passed in one chamber of the Legislature to be considered by the other chamber. Postponing a vote on House Bill 2933 effectively killed the legislation.

Numerous amendments were expected to the bill on the floor of the House, potentially leading to a lengthy and contentious floor session.

House of Delegates spokesman Jared Hunt said House members will instead focus their attentions on a tax bill passed out of the Senate on Wednesday, using the remaining 10 days of the regular legislative session to work on amendments to that bill.

The Senate tax bill, Senate Bill 409, would increase the state sales tax to 7 percent, remove some tax exemptions, add a 3 ½ percent tax on food and begin to phase out the state’s personal income tax. The bill also would make changes to coal severance tax collections and property tax assessments, and create a tax credit for low-income senior citizens.

The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 22-12, despite misgivings by both Democrats and the Republican majority about details of the legislation. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Mike Hall, R-Putnam, said he was voting for the bill because time was running out to send legislation on to the House for consideration.

Gov. Jim Justice and Republican leaders in both the House and Senate have vastly different ideas about how best to balance the state budget and reform the state’s tax system.

In other action Wednesday, the House approved a bill that would require the state Department of Health and Human Resources to set up additional drug treatment centers around the state to deal with the drug epidemic. The original bill, House Bill 2428, would have required 600 beds, including 100 in the Parkersburg area, but the bill was amended to remove the required number of beds from the legislation.

The bill also would set up an account to use money from a January drug settlement to fund the new facilities. The bill passed unanimously.

House members also voted 88-11 on House Bill 2363, which would require all public employees with a commercial drivers license to get medical certification that they are safe to drive. Cost of the medical exams would fall on government agencies.

House members also voted 95-5 on House Bill 3062, which would require money from state court settlements go into the general revenue fund. The bill would create an exception for consumer protection settlements, which would go into a special consumer protection recovery fund.

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