CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The House of Delegates passed a $100 million revenue bill Friday, sending it to the Senate for consideration with six weeks left in the fiscal year. The vote was bipartisan 74-17.
“This is a responsible amount of revenue to put toward that budget,” House Speaker Tim Armstead (R-Kanawha) said. “There are a lot of positives about this bill and one of the great things about it is it was a bipartisan effort.”
Delegates voted down 8 of 10 proposed amendments to the legislation during Friday’s floor session. The two amendments that passed aren’t expected to have a major impact on the projected revenue.
The bill broadens the base of those who pay the sales tax, lifting the exemptions on a number of services, most notably a telecommunications tax. The bill also eliminates the tax on Social Security benefits over a three-year period for those making less than $100,000 a year. The bill includes the elimination of taxes on veterans pensions. The bill also increases the personal income tax exemption from the current $2,000 to $2,500 per person for those making under $100,000 a year.
The House bill does not increase the sales tax. It also does not decrease the personal income tax, which are key components of the revenue bill the Senate passed earlier this week. The bill also leaves out the tiered severance tax pushed by Gov. Jim Justice and part of the Senate bill.
The $100 million the House bill is expected to raise falls at least $110 million short of the new budget Gov. Justice is expected to introduce in the coming days.
Delegate Pat McGeehan (R-Hancock) voted against the plan calling it “another massive tax bill.”
“It’s going to fall squarely on the working men and women of my district,” McGeehan said.
Senate Majority Leader Ryan Ferns (R-Ohio) also seemed less than impressed with the bill. He tweeted after the vote, “Confused by this story after reading for the past two weeks how the House was protecting the state from tax increases…74-17?”
Confused by this story after reading for the past two weeks how the House was protecting the state from tax increases…74-17? https://t.co/W6SqKmLHxO
— Ryan Ferns (@RyanFernsWV) May 19, 2017
But Delegate Isaac Sponaugle (D-Pendleton) said the plan with its Social Security tax cut was much better than the Senate’s income tax reduction.
“Instead of the Senate’s plan of giving millionaires and billionaires thousands of dollars back every year in their pocket—we’re going to take care of people that make less than $100,000 in West Virginia. The people that are struggling,” Sponaugle said.
After the vote, Armstead told reporters he hoped to be able to get together with Senate leaders before the full House returns Tuesday evening and discuss where the two bodies can agree on their separate bills. Senate President Mitch Carmichael (R-Jackson) said earlier Friday on MetroNews “Talkline” he anticipated the bill would go to a conference committee next week.
Both Carmichael and Armstead urged Gov. Justice Friday to submit a budget for lawmakers to consider. Armstead also asked the governor to raise revenue projections for next fiscal year. Armstead said the economy is doing better and he’s heard estimates for coal severance collections could be increased by $94 million.
Several speakers during Friday’s floor session in the House acknowledged there was still a long way to go before a budget for next fiscal year could be approved but considered Friday’s vote a step in the right direction.
“This is progress. This is momentum. This is a simplified approach to solve our problems,” House Majority Leader Darryl Cowles (R-Morgan) said.
The Senate is scheduled to return Monday at 11 a.m. for its floor session. The House’s next floor session is scheduled for Tuesday at 4 p.m.