WV Senate Passes a Budget Bill.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — After a brief talk with Gov. Jim Justice, the West Virginia Senate voted 19-11 to approve a bill that’s a key part of a state budget plan of $4.35 billion.
“It’s really a great day,” said Mitch Carmichael, Senate President.
The vote was largely along party lines, with Democrats voting against the proposal. A similar bill passed the Senate almost two weeks ago, 32-1.
Senate Democrats, rather than voting for the bill as it stood, put forward an amendment to remove portions aimed at lowering the personal income tax and substituting in an income tax exemption for Social Security recipients.
Senate Minority Leader Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, made the case for the amendment as a more responsible option than the plan to reduce the income tax while raising other taxes.
No fiscal assessment of the revenue bill has been made publicly available.
“The way we’ve gone about reducing income tax is piecemeal. It’s hard to tell where we’re going to end up to get a zero income tax,” Prezioso said.
The bill now goes to the House of Delegates, where the Republican majority has already said it will be subject to significant amendment.
The bill aims to balance the budget for the coming fiscal year largely by raising the state sales tax to 6.95 percent and broadening what is subject to the tax.
It also incorporates a reduction in the personal income tax six months after the other taxes are increased, allowing for a revenue cushion meant to keep the budget balanced.
House members have expressed concerns about the taxes that would be raised, the potential for holes in future budgets and how lower- and middle-income wage earners might be affected.
“What we intend to do is work that bill and either put in our version or pass a version — an originated bill — and pass our version,” House Speaker Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, said Tuesday morning on MetroNews’ Talkline.
“There will be action on the proposals, but I think it’s more likely that there will be a modified version that puts in some of what we think should be in it.”
Governor Justice made a rare appearance in the state Senate chamber about 4:30 p.m. today, encouraging lawmakers to vote in favor of the revenue bill he has been negotiating for weeks with the Republican majority.
“It’s a hell of a plan,” Justice, a Democrat, said during a speech that lasted about 10 minutes.
Members of the House of Delegates also came into the Senate chambers to listen to Justice’s remarks, which appeared to be spontaneous.
— Brad McElhinny (@BradMcElhinny) May 16, 2017
There were delays all day, with both houses going in at 11 a.m. but recessing within minutes as changes were made behind the scenes to the revenue bill.
The House of Delegates came back into session at 3:30 but then adjourned until 11 a.m. Wednesday.
The Senate came back into session for less than a minute at 2 p.m. and adjourned until 4 p.m. when the governor came in for his remarks.
Some of the delays had to do with ironing out the language of the bill, particularly parts dealing with economic triggers to reduce the personal income tax and other parts removing newly-established taxes on some sectors of the economy in favor of an increase in the corporate net income tax.
The House and Senate are scheduled to return at 11 a.m. Wednesday.