By Matthew Young, RealWV
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – With 27 days remaining in the current legislative session, lawmakers are beginning their final push toward March 11. Thus far, 1,365 proposed pieces of legislation have been introduced into the House of Delegates, with this coming Tuesday being the last day to introduce any new bills for consideration. In the Senate, the last day for introduction is Feb. 20.
On Wednesday, the Senate unanimously passed what is now the third personal income tax (PIT) reduction proposal since January 11. However, by proposing only a 15% PIT reduction, the Senate’s plan – SB 424 – differs significantly from the plans favored by both Gov. Jim Justice and the House of Delegates.
“It’s a very fiscally responsible plan – it’s a conservative plan,” Sen. Jack David Woodrum, R-Summers, said after the vote. “It (SB 424) provides tax relief, not only for the middle class that pay PIT, but it also provides for lower wage earners and retirees who pay much lower income tax.There is additional relief in the form of tax credits on automobiles. And it provides much needed relief to small businesses in West Virginia.”
Del. Todd Longanacre, R-Greenbrier, felt differently, saying, “While I certainly do not speak for the full House, I do believe the House plan (HB 2526) is much better and more thought out. The Senate plan ignores the will of the voters in that they said no to a property tax repeal last November. (Amendment 2 ballot initiative). Nevertheless, I will support any kind of tax reduction reform I can vote for at this point.”
As both houses of legislature have now adopted considerably different plans, it remains to be seen if the Republican supermajority will be able to work together in order to provide any type of meaningful tax relief to West Virginians.
On Monday, the Senate’s Military Committee advanced SB 447 – a bill which would provide a lifetime tax credit to disabled veterans for the acquisition of hunting, trapping, and fishing licenses.
Although sponsored by Sen. Randy Smith, R-Tucker, the bill was championed by Tucker County resident David Frex, who told the committee, “I have a step-son who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. He came back with a little bit of PTSD and so forth. The way that he feels best is by going out into the woods – that’s his therapy.”
On Tuesday, the House Committee on Pensions and Retirements advanced four bills – HB 2900, HB 2283, HB 2292, and HB 3148 – intended to streamline the pension-funding process for EMS and fire departments. On Wednesday, the Senate’s Committee on Political Subdivisions advanced legislation that would require all municipal elections to be held on the same day as state elections. And on Friday, the Senate passed the “Patrol Officer Cassie Marie Johnson Memorial Act” – which establishes stiff criminal penalties for interfering with a law enforcement officer or first responder while in the performance of their duties.
While the Senate was passing the Cassie Johnson Act, in the House Chamber, delegates were fiercely debating the passage of HB 2882. Sponsored by House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, at the request of Gov. Jim Justice, the bill seeks to appropriate nearly $300 million from the state severance tax to the W.Va. Department of Economic Development (DED).
According to DED Secretary Mitch Carmichael, the funds would be used to create a, “unique incentive package” in order to, “enable Form Energy to build a state-of-the-art, technologically advanced manufacturing facility creating 750 new, full-time jobs in our state.”
At the conclusion of a floor session which lasted nearly three hours, the House of Delegates passed HB 2882 by a vote of 69 to 25, and will now report it to the Senate for their consideration.
At just three-days past the halfway point, the legislature has forwarded 183 pieces of legislation to the governor’s office, and is now on pace to create more than 300 new laws by the end of the 2023 session. RealWV will provide continual updates throughout the duration of the 2023 legislative session.