CHARLESTON, W.Va. — House of Delegates Speaker Tim Armstead says there’s an optimism he hasn’t seen before heading into the legislature’s 60-day legislative session.

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Tim Armstead

“I’m looking forward to it,” Armstead said during an appearance Friday on MetroNews “Talkline.”

The session begins Wednesday at the state capitol. Armstead said there’s a lot to be positive about including improving revenue numbers for the state.

“(Last year) we had to make some necessary cuts and I think that’s what helped us get on course to meeting our revenue obligations,” he said. “I truly believe that’s why we are where we are now.”

Tax collections exceeded estimates for the first time since 2012 in December. Armstead said that’s a big positive but it’s not a full green light to increase spending.

“We’re not out of the woods and we need to be very cautious,” he said. “I don’t think we’re in a position where we can start to spend a great deal of revenue.”

Armstead said he does support a multi-year salary increase for corrections officers. He said the plan being floated by state Secretary for Military Affairs and Public Safety Jeff Sandy for a three-year $6,000 raise and a salary schedule is “very responsible.”

“We’re not going in and getting us immediately where we might want to be but starting that process on a step-by-step basis and I think that’s going to be one that we are going to look very carefully at and likely more forward with,” Armstead said.

Armstead said he’s “absolutely on board” with plans to phase out the tax on business inventory. A seven-year phase out is being discussed. Armstead said Friday he believes it can be done without hurting county governments and school systems that rely on the $140 million a year the tax generates.

“If it’s done carefully over several years, we believe, and I believe the (Justice) administration believes, that we can do so through some savings in some areas that will allow us to gradually get rid of it and not do it in a way that harms anyone,” he said.

State lawmakers will arrive in Charleston Sunday for three-days of interim committee meetings. The regular session begins at noon Wednesday with floor sessions. The highlight of the first day will be Gov. Jim Justice’s State of the State Address Wednesday night.

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