Updated April 9, 2021 at 5:05 p.m.
The West Virginia House of Representatives swiftly and overwhelmingly killed a proposal that would have lowered personal income taxes but called for other sources of income to be increased.
The House took action to reject the bill after Governor Jim Justice expressed disappointment at the lower chamber’s inaction on the issue, which failed to achieve legislative consensus.
After receiving news of the Wednesday passage of the measure in the Senate, the House voted unanimously on Friday afternoon to reject House Law 3300. Republican leaders incorporated the bill passed in the Senate late Wednesday.
The Senate’s latest plan came to the fore after the governor held a meeting with senior lawmakers Monday to seek consensus on the issue. The upper chamber based its proposal, at least in part, on updated ideas from the judiciary.
The final version of the Senate would have lowered income tax and offered low-income tax breaks – but it would have done so through an increase in consumer sales tax, a tiered severance tax system and an increase in cigarette tax.
An earlier House of Representatives plan was dramatically different from the Senate version and did not provide any new sources of revenue to balance the state budget. Eric Householder, chairman of home finance, R-Berkeley, said the Senate tax hikes and new sources of income were key drivers for the lower chamber.
“We showed them the easy way out,” said Householder. “West Virgins want real tax breaks and not new taxes. Why on earth do we want to punish our small businesses for being the lifeblood of our economy? And why do we want to burden our own citizens anew? “
Del. Marty Gearheart, R-Mercer, also stepped in, calling on other lawmakers to reject the Senate proposal.
“To quote our governor,” There is no way, shape, form or vogue “that I can ever support any part of what is proposed,” said Gerheart. “Ladies and gentlemen, it is time for us to let the Governor and Senate know that we recognize that tax increases are not tax cuts. They are simply a shift in the load. “
Hours earlier, during a virtual press conference, the judiciary proposed that delegates vote on the proposal, which the governor had strongly supported during the 2021 session.
“They are not going to vote on it because they are afraid to vote on it. Because certain people are known to say that they won’t even vote on the most important thing this state has ever had before, ”Justice said.
The governor and members of the Republican-led Senate had encouraged the reduction
personal income tax as a means to not only stave off the state’s population decline, but also to attract hundreds of thousands of new residents – especially given the state’s newfound attention to its pandemic response.
“West Virginia is a great place to work remotely. We are investing in broadband and roads today. We led the nation in our COVID response, “Justice said. “People realize that West Virginia is a safe and beautiful place to live. Now is our moment. “
After the House’s rejection of the measure, House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, told reporters that he and his members were not against an income tax cut. But, said Hanshaw, it would have been “ruthless” to vote for the Senate’s plan.
“We would never do it in 60 days. We didn’t get a plan until well into the regular session – and there’s nothing wrong with that, ”said Hanshaw. “But big, transformative, monumental political changes take time to tinker with.”
During the press conference of the judiciary, he suggested that the idea should continue to be promoted through a “roadshow” in which he would educate residents about the issue.
The 60-day regular session of the Legislature in West Virginia ends at midnight on Saturday.