CHARLESTON, W.Va. — House of Delegates Speaker Tim Armstead says he believes some members of the Senate were so fixated on getting what they want in tax reform they were willing to give Gov. Jim Justices millions of dollars in tax increases.
That’s part of the drama that played out in the last hours of the 60-day regular legislative session that ended Saturday night. The House and Senate did eventually pass a budget without a tax increase. It relies heavily on the Rainy Day Fund and all indications point toward a Justice veto.
During separate appearances on MetroNews “Talkline” Monday, Armstead and Senate President Mitch Carmichael both called the budget that passed “sound and responsible” but both indicated they wouldn’t be surprised with a veto.
Armstead said he remains disappointed that Carmichael was talking directly to the governor Saturday about tax reform and tax increases without including the House. He said that could impact any future budget negotiations.
“I think the way this was done in the last few hours of the session didn’t help anything,” Armstead said on “Talkline.” “It probably caused us to go farther apart. That’s probably true.”
If the governor vetoes the budget, Carmichael said he wants to continue with the framework discussions that he said would increase the consumer sales tax by one percent while decreasing the personal income tax by 20 percent. Carmichael said he had to listen to Justice.
“To have the chief executive of the state bring an agreement or a mechanism that incorporates much of what we asked for–I just don’t think it’s appropriate for me to say, ‘Okay thank you for giving us what we ask, we don’t want it any longer,'” Carmichael said on “Talkline.”
During a Saturday night news conference Justice said the deal with Carmichael included the sales tax increase, the CAT tax on businesses, the rich man tax and the road construction plan that increases DMV fees and Turnpike tolls among other things.
Armstead said that’s essentially the governor’s entire tax increase plan in exchange for a rollback in the income tax if certain financial triggers are met.
“I think what you’ve got is some senators have become some invested in this (tax reform) plan that they’re now ready to pretty much say, ‘Okay governor whatever it takes, whatever you want, let’s just do it if just give us this component of the plan,'” Armstead said.
Carmichael said he wants the House to take a detailed look at the framework reached with the governor. He said he’s looking forward to continued discussions about tax reform.
“We have to recognize that our state is the worst from an economic perspective in America and to continue doing what we’re doing is not working and a substantive overhaul and a reduction in the personal income rates in West Virginia will, will, will generate jobs and opportunity,” Carmichael said.
Armstead said doing tax reform while including hundreds of millions of dollars in tax increases won’t fly in the House.
“If you’ll just give us one component of our tax reform and we’ll give you every tax you want—it’s not going to go across the finish line,” Armstead said.
The House passed a tax reform bill during the session that would lower the consumer sales tax while broadening the base of those who pay taxes.