House Considers Income Tax Bill, But Governor, Senate Leaders Remain Divided

Senate Speaker Craig Blair does not support the governor’s income tax proposal at this time. The governor, meanwhile, says the Senate majority’s property tax plan is too burdened with complications.

These are not, apparently, two great tastes that taste good together.

Nonetheless, the House Finance Committee passed the governor’s favorite bill Tuesday morning in a special legislative session. The income tax cut proposed now will be considered by all delegates on the House floor, where it looks likely to pass this chamber without much change. Then the Senate would receive the bill.

It’s hard to imagine a successful ending to School House Rock, when the Governor and Senate leaders disagree.

Blair says he is pleased that the special session that was called for the income tax cut provided an opportunity to talk about personal property tax cuts.

Craig Blair

“We are butting heads, but I would like to thank the governor for making the call (of the special session) because what is doing is he is bringing more awareness to the counties and the public so that in November, when they go to the polls, they can trust the legislature. If they vote yes on the personal property tax, we have every intention of being able to deal with it and remove that tax,” Blair said.

West Virginia is voting in the general election on a constitutional amendment that would give lawmakers the ability to change property taxes.

Legislative proposal to cut property taxes is not yet set in stone, but estimates suggest it could be more than $500 million, with the state having to reimburse counties that rely on property taxes to provide local services. Public debate has focused on taxes on vehicles and business equipment, machinery and inventory.

“I’m not against cutting personal income tax, but it’s a chicken or an egg in this case – and in this case we have the resources to do personal property tax “said Blair, R-Berkeley, today on MetroNews’ “Talkline”.

The governor said today he wants to treat the Senate majority proposal with respect, but he’s not mad about it.

Jim Justice

“The proposal that our Senate Speaker Craig Blair has on the table is basically a collage of everything, even to the point where we’re going to say we’re going to put 14 chickens in everyone’s pot. If you buy this, you buy this,” said Justice, a Republican.

“I tell you without a doubt, the one thing in life that will drive more people to West Virginia, more people to the state of West Virginia, is lower personal income tax and its elimination.

The governor said on “Talkline” that he is concerned about the possible financial effects of the property tax proposal. In particular, he focused on how local governments depend on property taxes for public services. “Adding another $500 million is very, very risky and very irresponsible in my view,” Justice said.

Eric Tarr

Senate Finance Chairman Eric Tarr, R-Putnam, objected to the disclosure on the governor’s tax bill.

Before that, he said, “Senate presidents tried to get their hands on the governor. They have each other’s cell phone, so they would normally be exchanging a conversation, and it’s not unusual for them to talk on that cell phone.

“So far it’s probably been better than three weeks now, the governor hasn’t taken a phone call, he hasn’t returned a text, except to fire an intermediary to say ‘I’m sick; I can’t take the call’ – but he can still do his covid show, he can still make the trip, still be on Capitol Hill, but he was too sick to take the phone call from the President of the Senate.

Then, Tarr said on “580 Live” on WCHS Radio, the special session was called.

“The special session then comes like this postage stamp type call. It’s the invoice: You can make a 10% reduction in income tax; I call you to do it now.

This came after the Senate majority worked for months on the property tax issue. Tarr called Revenue Secretary Dave Hardy, who last week said the property tax proposal would “wreck” the state budget, as well as Bray Cary, who has been a close adviser to the governor.

“Bray Cary comes back to town, we see his car all around and suddenly we go back to the same old games,” Tarr said on the Charleston radio show.

Ahead of this week’s special session on Sunday, the governor had an extensive meeting with Blair and then spoke with other members of the Senate Majority Caucus.

In a statement about those conversations, Justice said he never intended to avoid talks with senators.

“Governor. The Department of Justice has repeatedly and consistently stated publicly that it welcomes meaningful discussions with the Legislative Assembly regarding the repeal of the personal income tax and other means of advance West Virginia,” its statement read. “Any insinuation to the contrary is incorrect.”

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