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House, Justice no closer on income tax reduction as smoke clears from session

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — House of Delegates Speaker Roger Hanshaw said Monday in his mind talks can continue among lawmakers and Gov. Jim Justice on the best way to reduce the state income tax.

House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay

Hanshaw, during an appearance on MetroNews “Talkline,” repeated that he believes the state needs to head down the path of eliminating the tax but work needs to be done on how to do it.

Gov. Justice wanted the House to agree with the plan the Senate passed last week, a plan that somewhat mirrored Justice’s plan to cut the tax by 60% next Jan. 1. The House decided to sit on the bill and Hanshaw said that was going to be the plan through the end of the session on Saturday until Justice criticized the House in a Friday news conference for not taking a vote.

“Given the suggestion on Friday that perhaps we were afraid to vote and were unwilling to act as the House, that was not the case and never was the case,” Hanshaw said. “If we’re going to get those kind of accusations being thrown around we’ll have to respond to them, so we had to do that.”

The House took up the Senate plan and defeated it 0-100.

When asked about the vote at his media Monday, Gov. Justice once again called it “grandstanding.”

“It was the miss of all-time and it turned into a grandstanding circus,” Justice said.

Governor Jim Justice

Meanwhile, Justice praised the Senate Monday.

“I really commend our Senate for wisdom,” Justice said. “At some point in time we’ll understand that we had real wisdom going on in the Senate and not a lot of wisdom going on in the House to tell you the truth.”

Justice has promised a lot of town hall meetings across the state to build support for his plan.

Hanshaw said the House will continue with its own research on the best way to reduce the tax. He said first they’ll be looking at the experiences of states that have already done so.

“States that have successfully made this transition followed what kind of a path? That’s the question we want to answer. What are some of the missteps those states made? Because we know our economy here in West Virginia has struggled for years and we can’t afford a misstep,” Hanshaw said.

The new state budget has $73 million in cuts that gives the legislature some options if income tax reductions do happen over the next year, Hanshaw said.

“We want to be sure we’ve started down a path toward that now just so we could make sure that that opportunity remains possible as we continue discussions over the spring and summer. But realize that money remains unappropriated,” Hanshaw said.

Other session items

–on not being able to pass the term limits resolution for constitutional officeholders

“We just didn’t have the votes for it,” Hanshaw said.

–on future broadband funding from federal money

“One of the things that we did not get done this session, we’ll be talking about it as we prepare for possible special sessions in the summer and fall, will be whether we can put some structure in place for how that infrastructure money gets spent to properly deploy it for broadband expansion here in the state,” Hanshaw said.

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