5:06pm: WVSSAC Boys Basketball Championships

Justice calls legislative leaders to tax plan ‘summit’ on Monday, legislative session Day 55

Gov. Jim Justice says he’s calling a Monday “summit” to work out differences among three tax plans.

“I’m going to propose a summit between the houses and the three different plans.”

He first announced the summit on MetroNews’ “Talkline” and then added specifics like participants, a time and a location while speaking later at a regular pandemic response briefing.

“I am calling a summit,” he said. Then he described majority and minority leaders and finance chairs gathering at noon Monday at the Culture Center. “We’re going to have a summit on the most important item that has come across West Virginia’s desk forever,” Justice said.

“So at 12 o’clock, let’s quit messing around. Let’s bring all the leaders together,” Justice said.

Legislative staff for Republican and Democratic leaders said officials were just becoming aware of the governor’s public statements about the summit — but that no formal invitations had been extended. In other words, they learned about the summit idea from today’s broadcasts.

Shortly before 3 p.m. Friday, RSVPs had arrived.

This invitation came to legislative leaders

A little more than a week before the end of the regular legislative session, the Republican governor and Republican majorities in the House and the Senate all agree they want to cut the personal income tax. But there are big differences on how to do it.

Monday is Day 55 of the 60-day legislative session.

The governor said he wants to bring all parties into the room. “And I want to bring in people from the media who can sit there and watch,” Justice said today on MetroNews’ “Talkline.”

With this effort, the governor said the end result should be, “We’ve given it everything we’ve had.”

Justice’s plan estimates initial personal income tax reductions totaling $1,035,650,000 and rebates totaling $52 million for lower-income residents — but also tax increases of $902,600,000 to make up for most of those breaks.

A plan currently under consideration in the Senate would cut the personal income tax initially by $1.09 billion and would offset that cut with a variety of tax increases anticipated to be $890 million. It would not include rebates for low earners, and it would raise the sales tax to 8.5 percent and reinstitute a food tax.

A House plan would cut at least $150 million a year in income taxes, projecting elimination in about a dozen years. The plan does not include offsetting taxes, and the concern is whether natural economic growth could keep pace with the cuts.

Speaking on “Talkline,” Justice repeated his concerns that it puts burden on lower-income residents while letting business interests largely off the hook. “We let the Charleston swamp rule the day.”

Brian Dayton

The West Virginia Chamber of Commerce has merely spoken on behalf of its members, many of which are small businesses who worry the tax mix could make them noncompetitive, responded Brian Dayton, vice president of tax policy and advocacy for the organization.

“We have an opinion that happens to differ from the governor’s. It’s not personal,” Dayton said on “Talkline.”

He said the organization would be happy to provide its view on the summit and the tax plans if invited to do so.

“We are happy to provide our input and move forward on that,” he said.

During a budget impasse in 2017, Justice tried a similar form of shuttle diplomacy, with Senate Republicans, Senate Democrats, House Republicans and House Democrats all in separate rooms and the governor walking among the four.

That time, Justice went nine times from room to room over the day from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., but there was no resolution. He called everybody back the next day. The next day wasn’t conclusive either.

This time, Justice has talked about cutting the income tax dramatically as people consider remote work as a real possibility and while the state basks in national attention from its relatively successful handling of the pandemic. He says West Virginia needs to strike while the iron is hot.

If the summit doesn’t work out: “If we can’t get anything done, let’s forget it.”





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