Tax plans get more examination, and governor hosts a roundtable of tax cut advocates

The governor, House leaders and Senate leaders all still say they want to cut taxes, and they’re assessing each other’s plans.

Senators introduced a tax proposal last week, advocating for changes in several sections of the code. The governor today hosted a roundtable discussion with nationally-known advocates for cutting taxes.

And the House of Delegates, which overwhelmingly passed Justice’s income tax cut proposal a few weeks ago, is taking a look at the details of the Senate’s plan.

Vernon Criss

“Between the two houses and the governor, you’ve got to come to some kind of compromise if you want to get something done, and I think there’s a great opportunity here with what the Senate’s laid out,” House Finance Chairman Vernon Criss, R-Wood, said on MetroNews’ “Talkline.”

“We’ll have that as a starting point. We will probably start negotiating this week in some form or fashion on all points that they have provided along with our 50 percent tax cut that we have put in the mix.”

Senators characterize the plan as starting with a 15 percent decrease in personal income tax. In out years, a 105 percent improvement of sales tax revenue over the previous year would trigger additional income tax cuts.

More elements of the proposal include:

  • Elimination of the “marriage penalty” when filing taxes in West Virginia
  • A rebate for the payment of taxes on vehicles
  • A homestead real property tax rebate for 90- to 100-percent service-disabled military veterans
  • A 50 percent rebate for the payment of equipment and inventory taxes paid by West Virginia small businesses

Criss said discussions need to bring out more detail about how some of those are defined.

The governor’s top priority has been a different proposal, a 50 percent personal income tax reduction over three years. The House of Delegates overwhelmingly voted in favor of that proposal earlier in the legislative session.

“Right now our position is 50 percent over three years,” Criss said of delegates. “Again, that’s a negotiating point along with the other items that the Senate has in their plan. We’ll take a look at those.”

With that as a backdrop, Governor Justice gathered tax cut advocates today at the state Culture Center to discuss the big picture. Participants generally described their belief in tax cuts — but there was not necessarily specific advocacy for one plan or another.

Justice’s introductory remarks noted that “the Senate’s come with a great plan, and we want to vet, work together, with the House. The House was good enough to jump all in on day one almost. And at the end of the day what we want to do is just simply make things better for the average, everyday working West Virginian and drive growth to our state.”

One of the guests, Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform, said West Virginia should join the states that are making big cuts to income taxes.

“This is a march to zero. There are a number of states doing it. West Virginia can be in the lead, acting this year,” Norquist said.

Another guest, Stephen Moore of the Heritage Foundation, agreed.

“Governor, go big or go home,” Moore said on stage.

He added, “I’m for 100 percent reduction in the income tax. I’m in favor of your state eventually getting to zero because that would be a flashing billboard around the country to entrepreneurs and businesses and workers that West Virginia is open to business.”

Craig Blair

Senate President Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, took some time to describe the Senate’s proposal and some of its details. Blair praised the roundtable event for its focus on cutting taxes.

“Isn’t it wonderful that we’re, in this audience right now, having a conversation about tax reduction?” Blair said.

Governor Justice, in his concluding remarks, said he is pleased that tax cuts are on the table.

“We’ve got to all continue to work together,” Justice said. “Because whether it be the House or it be the Senate or it be the governor at the end of the day if we’ll stay on a pathway and we’ll check our feelings or our emotions at the door and we’ll get to work on what’s good for you and for all this state, at the end of the day that’s what needs to be done.”

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