CHARLESTON – Governor Jim Justice announced on Wednesday that he is not a fan of any House or Senate plans to phase out income tax. The judiciary is also unhappy with the Senate’s proposed cuts to its budget.
Speaking on the phone on Wednesday afternoon, Justice said he agreed that the House and Senate would want to make changes to his original proposal to cut individual income tax by 60 percent, but both plans go in extremely different directions.
“I’ve said over and over again that I don’t have anything set in stone that needs to be in a certain way.” Justice said. “I think we should grow up.”
House Bill 2027 and Senate Bill 600, the governor’s tax reform plan, never got off committee in time for Wednesday’s transition day, the day’s bills have to be passed from one chamber to another. The plan includes a 60 percent reduction in income tax and a tax break for residents who earn less than $ 35,000 a year.
The entire tax proposal and judicial tax break would reduce the state’s tax revenue by $ 1.088 billion. Justice proposed $ 902.6 million in proposed tax increases to pay for the income tax cut, including increasing the sales and use tax rate for consumers from 6 percent to 7.9 percent; Creation of a graduated severance payment tax for fossil fuels; a new tax on certain luxury goods; and increased taxes on cigarettes, tobacco products, e-cigarettes, beer, wine, liquor, and soda.
The judiciary would also remove sales tax exemptions from professional services such as legal services, accountants, computer hardware and software, and other categories.
The House of Representatives passed House Bill 3300 on Monday, which removes income tax by $ 150 million annually for the first full year until the tax is gone. The House version includes an Income Tax Reduction Fund that siphons tax revenues from specific sources of income and existing income streams to accelerate tax cuts while encouraging lower government spending.
A report released Tuesday by the bipartisan tax foundation estimates the House’s plan would take anywhere from 11 to 17 years to completely abolish income tax, but it doesn’t include tax increases.
“The house plan really doesn’t go big … it doesn’t achieve all of the things that need to be achieved.” Justice said. “Nobody is going to take off and move to West Virginia at this point because they don’t believe it. In practical terms, it would probably take 20 years for this plan to materialize, and that’s just not believable at the moment. “
The Senate Finance Committee changed HB 3300 to introduce its own personal income tax plan that seeks to marry off parts of the House and Governor’s plans. The Senate plan would cut income tax rates by more than 50 percent, even for small businesses and sole proprietorships, but not for investment income. The plan would reduce income tax revenues by $ 1.09 billion.
To pay for the income tax cut, the Senate version of HB 3300 would raise consumer sales tax from 6 percent to 8.5 percent. It would also remove sales tax exemptions for services commonly used by businesses and tax some at lower rates.
Other tax increases in the Senate version include the reintroduction of the 2.5 percent food tax; Taxation of ready meals at 8.5 percent; a 4.3 percent tax on short-term accommodation; a tax of 8.5 percent on contingent-based legal settlements; and the creation of a new lottery scratch game.
Justice said he was not informed or consulted about the Senate version of HB 3300. He described the Senate plan as an attempt to keep special interest groups who contradict his plan happy while he was stronger against the working West Virginians.
“I don’t know why on earth the Senate comes out with its own plan without ever picking up the phone and calling.” Justice said. “Your plan really puts the whole burden right at the feet of those who are likely to be struggling, whether they like it or not.
“Basically, you let the swamp run the show, not the West Virginia people.” Justice went on. “So everyone gets off scot-free, and people with incomes less than $ 35,000 get hammered.”
The judiciary also criticized the budget, which was approved by the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday afternoon. Senate Bill 125 offsets the budget by cutting $ 104.6 million, including cuts to the judiciary’s Jobs and Hope substance abuse and vocational training program, the Communities in Schools program, and four- and two-year colleges and universities.
“I just do not understand” Justice said. “I really question all of my colleagues – Republicans, Democrats, Independents – everyone. The only thing we all have to do is keep in touch with people. I’m not here to do what I personally want to do for Jim Justice. I am there to do what is right for people and what people want to do. “
Corporate groups and tax reform organizations have spoken out against the governor’s plan in recent weeks. They claim that his plan will not lower the income tax rates of small businesses and sole proprietorships, and the tax hike will hurt them.
The judiciary hopes that a compromise can be reached in time with only 10 days to go until the end of the session on April 10th. The judiciary is also not opposed to a special session to negotiate a personal income tax treaty between him, the legislature and the business community. But Justice believes the state must act quickly while the nation’s eyes are on West Virginia.
“I am open to anything if I just want to do something good for our people. That is out of the question “, Justice said. “When people listen to common sense and we can move forward and work together and everything, that’s great. The biggest handicap for returning is every day we delay when everyone is looking at us, our moment will pass. “
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