Lawmaker explain alternative to Justice income tax elimination

Published: Mar. 23, 2021 at 6:06 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WTAP) - During a meeting with business leaders Monday, Gov. Jim Justice chided legislators for not going along with a plan he developed to eliminate the state’s income tax.

“If I looked at them and said, ‘I want to lower your taxes; I want to lower your obligations to the state of West Virginia (by) $50,000’, and then I said, ‘I want to raise the bubble gum tax a penny’. They would look at me and say, ‘by God, I’m not raising a tax’. We can’t think that way, West Virginia.”

But at the same time, the House of Delegates Finance Committee was finalizing a plan of its own to do the same: one Vice-Chairman says depends on growth of hte state budget.

It would allow the state to set aside its annual estimated growth-about $150 million-in an imaginary box, to reduce the income tax to eventual elimination.

“When that box attains $400 million,” says the Wood County Delegate, “we will allow the tax commissioner to use $100 million of it, along with the $150 million reduction, to accelerate the income tax reduction rates.”

Criss adds the numbers can be adjusted in economic emergencies.

“If there’s any problems down the road as far as economic downturn or whatever you simply stop taking money out of the general revenue accounts or the special revenue accounts or stop the reduction of the rates so you don’t harm anybody by having to put tax on something else.”

Legislators, and some business groups, are concerned about the tax increases Justice has proposed to offset expected revenue losses from the “zeroing out” of the income tax.

With about 18 days left in the legislative session, the governor’s plan, in separate bills, remains in House and Senate committees.

Criss believes the House plan finalized Monday, and introduced Tuesday, could get its required three readings by next week.

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