CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia lawmakers are back trying again to reconcile differences with Gov. Jim Justice and enact tax and budget bills for the fiscal year starting July 1.
On Monday, the Senate quickly adjourned, awaiting action by the House, which has previously voted against Senate-passed tax measures backed by Justice.
The House later met briefly, then also adjourned until Tuesday with committees meeting to again weigh and revise bills.
Delegate Cindy Frich, a Morgantown Republican, re-introduced legislation to end state support for the state’s greyhound racing, which she told colleagues would save $15 million for a subsidy where most purse money leaves the state. Justice previously vetoed it, saying it would cost West Virginia jobs and visitors.
Delegate Michael Folk, a Martinsburg Republican, said the leadership in the House, Senate and governor’s office all seem to be able to do one thing, raise taxes. He’s frustrated continuing to make the 310-mile trip from home, even cutting his work schedule as a commercial airline pilot, for what seems to be becoming a full-time job figuring out how to “extort” more money from West Virginia’s private sector, he said.
The House two weeks ago rejected raising the state sales tax from 6 percent to 7.25 percent while cutting income taxes 20 percent with the aim of eventually ending them.
In the two weeks since, Justice and legislative leaders have met, with the governor now proposing more gradual income tax cuts and a smaller sales tax increase.
Folk criticized the latest proposal, which he said would set the sales tax at 6.35 percent and apply it to work done on people’s homes that cost more than $15,000. “It’s time to run a budget bill before you run a tax increase bill,” he said.
House committees are again weighing possible terms.
At the end of its regular two-month session in early April, the Republican-controlled Legislature adopted a $4.1 billion general revenue budget that Justice vetoed, saying it would cut too deeply into state support for Medicaid, higher education and some other programs to close a projected $500 million funding deficit in the coming year.
Justice first called lawmakers back to address their differences starting in May.
Also on the table is Justice’s proposal for a major highway reconstruction program intended to boost employment. It would raise gas taxes and some state motor vehicle fees to fund bonding.