CHARLESTON – Despite the crash of the Income Tax Withdrawal Act, Governor Jim Justice and West Virginia Senate and House leaders have called the 2021 legislature a success.
Lawmakers adjourned Saturday night at midnight and ended 60 days in unusual circumstances as both bodies put rules in place to ensure COVID-19 did not spread to lawmakers and employees.
According to the legislature’s website, of the 2,039 bills introduced since the February 10 session began, 281 have completed the legislative process, representing nearly 14 percent of the total bills. By Sunday, the judiciary had signed 78 bills and only vetoed one bill, which the legislature corrected and sent back.
After Saturday night’s session, Senate President Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, and House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, said the 2021 session had many hits for the first session with Republican super majorities.
These successes were possible due to good communication and aggressive efforts to postpone legislation early in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak.
“We couldn’t have done better” Said Blair. “The way the House, the Governor’s Office, and the Senate have worked together, and that’s both the minority and the majority. We all worked well together. Our employees were also able to focus on us and work with us and be very, very productive. I am proud of everyone. I never thought it could be this good. “
Hanshaw also said he was happy.
“We started this session with the pandemic cloud hanging over us, so we’ve taken some steps to make sure people are safe and that we can do the business of the session as efficiently and safely as possible . “ Said Hanshaw. “And that meant that we had to necessarily get some things done much faster and earlier than we might have been able to do in a typical regular legislature.”
Of the 87 bills introduced in the name of the judiciary, 35 were passed by the legislature. On Saturday night, Justice spoke to reporters at the governor’s mansion and said the meeting went great.
“I am very satisfied and everything” Justice said. “If you step back and look at what we’ve achieved, we’ve done things to create more opportunity, from businesses and jobs to all the different things in our state. That must be the subject of what has been achieved. “
Legislators have been able to pass laws that created an Intermediate Court of Appeals to create a better legal climate for the public and businesses. This made it easier to obtain professional and contractor licenses and changed tax laws to encourage home-based workers to relocate to West Virginia and create an austerity program for young people wishing to participate in a trade and professional program.
“We actually achieved a lot of things in this session that we are really proud of.” Said Hanshaw. “So many of the people we want to bring here are men and women who could help us build things that can actually help us start and grow businesses. To do this, you need a workforce. Much of what we have focused on are things that should help people to create and expand a workforce here. “
Despite the successes cited by Justice, Hanshaw and Blair, the main focus of this session was the failure of efforts to phase out income tax. While the Senate governor and Republicans came up with a compromise plan that cut tax rates by 50 percent and raised consumer sales and other taxes, the House preferred a slow, no-tax exit.
The Senate passed its compromise plan and sent it to the House on Thursday. When the House failed to take up the message, the judiciary criticized the Republican leadership of the House in a briefing Friday, accusing them of fear of voting. Shortly thereafter, the House adopted the bill and refused to give the Senate a unanimous vote, effectively killing the bill.
The judiciary continued to be critical of the house, although it took on a less hostile tone on Saturday. The judiciary once again vowed to take to the streets to explain its tax plan to the public in traveling town halls.
He said he would call a special session on tax reform, but only if there is agreement between him, the House and the Senate, and the business community.
“It is something that I will certainly not give up in any way” Justice said. “I would like to do it sooner, but I will only do it if I am really convinced that people really understand. If I call us back, I’ll call us back with the people of West Virginia. “
“If we are able to bring (personal income tax) up and get it done in the next month or two, I have a prediction that we will. I think we can get there. “ Said Blair. “It’s going to turn things around … it’s going to bring the economic recovery we need in the state of West Virginia.”
Hanshaw, when asked about a special session on income tax, was more reluctant. Although he hadn’t immediately embraced the idea, he saw talks about studying the income tax exit over the next several months.
“We’ll talk about it in the next few weeks.” Said Hanshaw. “We intend to have a full interim plan in the coming year. And I’m sure that as we go through these regular monthly interim briefings while we are here, further discussion about the future of West Virginia personal income tax cut plans will be part of what we spend here. ”
(Adams can be contacted at email@example.com)
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