Democratic leaders slam Justice State of the State’s proposals | News, Sports, Jobs
CHARLESTON – Gov. Jim Justice was criticized Thursday by Democratic leaders in the West Virginia Senate and House of Delegates for his plans to phase out personal income tax, his use of federal aid against coronaviruses and not to mention broadband.
State Senator Richard Lindsay, D-Kanawha, and House Minority Whip Shawn Fluharty, D-Ohio, gave the Democratic Party’s response Thursday to Justice’s annual State of the State address Wednesday evening.
“What we heard (Wednesday) evening was a shift in our priorities, one that prioritizes those who make the most money in this state, not those who work the hardest necessarily,” said Fluharty.
“I find it hard to believe that most West Virginia will see their tax relief based on what (justice) said (Wednesday) night,” Lindsay said.
Justice has proposed a gradual abolition of personal income tax, initially lowering personal income tax by half for employees below a certain income and by a third for residents above a certain income level with the future elimination of personal income tax being the ultimate goal.
Justice proposed to create a multi-level departure tax for coal, oil and natural gas; increase the sales and consumer use tax by 1.5 percent; increased taxes on tobacco and soda; remove tax exemptions for professional services; create a wealth tax; and cut $ 25 million in state government to ease the personal income tax transition.
Justice called for the creation of a third Rainy Day Fund to help cover possible deficits as personal income tax is phased out, using part of the remaining $ 665.1 million in the federal CARES law on the $ 1.25 billion initially sent to the state last April for the state. and local expenses related to the coronavirus.
Of that $ 665.1 million, about $ 400 million is withheld to repay a $ 157 million interest-free loan through the U.S. Department of Labor to maintain the solvency of the West Virginia Unemployment Trust Fund. West Virginia is one of 21 states offering interest-free loans. The interest-free period has been extended to March 14.
A portion of the $ 400 million would repay this loan if the interest-free period is not extended. The other party would replenish the state unemployment trust fund to avoid employer unemployment tax increases. In a normal year, the trust fund balance is around $ 200 million. Justice is also hoping that the $ 157 million debt will be canceled by President Joe Biden’s Labor Department, freeing those funds to place them in the proposed third Rainy Day account.
“We are now getting details of why (justice) sat on this CARES law money – hundreds of millions of dollars designed to help our state and our people who have suffered,” said Fluharty. “Turns out he wants to put it in one of his buckets to top up tax breaks for the wealthy in the state of West Virginia.”
Democratic lawmakers, as well as some Republicans, have criticized justice’s handling of the CARES bill dollars, including trying to collect enough signatures from members to meet in special session to review justice’s CARES spending plans.
On Thursday, the House Finance Committee passed an amendment to the 2014 House Bill that would require the governor to summon the legislature for any federal disaster funding expenditure greater than $ 150 million during a state of emergency declared.
Lindsay noted that Justice barely mentioned anything about broadband expansion. According to a state-of-state transcript on Wednesday, the courts only mentioned broadband four times.
“We’ve taken some really, really bold steps for broadband, haven’t we? West Virginia has a broadband deficit beyond imaginable ”, says justice. “We need to do all we can to cover our state with broadband. It will make us better and better, and opportunities abound everywhere. This is the next highway construction project. We have absolutely fueled the dollars that are pouring in now and we have some real progress in broadband. “
Ahead of the November 2020 election, Republican lawmakers and candidates joined Justice on the steps of the State Capitol Building, pledging to spend $ 150 million over three years on broadband expansion in addition to other federal investments. The budget proposed by the Ministry of Justice for fiscal year 2022 does not include a line for additional investments in broadband.
“When we talk about priorities… broadband is one of them. (Justice) said that was part of it. And Democrats are attached to broadband ”, Lindsay said. “This particular event before the election was eerily similar to the one where teachers were promised a raise in their salary… So I think we’re going to have to take it back for the broadband to work.
“Broadband is about the only bipartisan issue you’re going to find here, but we’re not getting a lot of detail on what (Justice) wants to do with it.” Fluharty added.
(Adams can be contacted at [email protected])