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West Virginia Legislative Brief: Commentary

Welcome to the 2017 Legislative Brief, your one-stop shop for legislative news from a variety of sources throughout West Virginia, and my view of the legislative happenings on the horizon.  Today marks the 3rd day of the 60-Day Legislative Session.

Legislative Action by the Numbers:

  • 334 bills introduced in the House

  • 261 bills introduced in the Senate

View from the Capitol:

Newly elected Governor Jim Justice gave his inaugural State of the State address on Wednesday, February 8th, 2017, the opening day of the 2017 Legislative Session.  The Legislature started 30 days later this year to allow for the new governor and his administration to put together his cabinet and legislative agenda.  Leading up to the Governor's State of the State address, it was quite clear the Legislature would need to tackle a $450,000,000 deficit in the State’s budget.  Keep in mind, the Legislature started off last year’s session with a $350,000,000 hole in the budget which resulted in a wide array of budget cuts and the implementation of the State’s first tobacco tax in over a decade.  Highlights of the Governor's proposals outlined in his State of the State include:

  • Sales tax increase of .5% to generate $92.7 million

  • Elimination of the exemptions for professional services and advertising for $87.6 million

  • Creation of a .20% commercial activity tax on gross revenues similar to the previously repealed B&O tax in 1987 for $214 million

  • End to general revenue subsidy to state road fund saving $11.7 million

  • Redirection of one-time workers' comp debt fund revenue for $38 million

  • Increase to beer barrel tax from $5.50 to $8.00 for $2.8 million

  • Increase to wholesale liquor markup from 28% to 32% for $2.8 million

  • 10 cent a gallon increase in the gasoline excise tax

  • Increasing turnpike tolls by $1.00

  • Raising the annual vehicle registration fee by $20.00

All in all, Governor Justice proposed $450,000,000 in new taxes, fees, and tolls in addition to approximately $27 million in additional cuts to the proposed State budget. With a solid Republican majority in both chambers, any new revenue enhancements will be debated and controversial to say the least.  The West Virginia Constitution states a budget must be in place by July 1, 2017.  I fully expect the budget process to go well beyond the 60-day regular legislative session.

Legislative Calendar - Important Days to Remember

First Day - February 8
20th Day - February 27
 - Submission of Legislative Rule-Making Review Bills Due.
35th Day - March 14 - Last day to introduce bills in the House.
41st Day - March 20 - Last day to introduce bills in the Senate.  
47th Day - March 26 - Bills due out of committee in house of origin to ensure three full days for readings.
50th Day - March 29 - Last day to consider bills on third reading in house of origin.  Does not apply to the budget bill or supplemental appropriation bills.
60th Day - April 8 - Adjournment at midnight.

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About this Author

L. Gil White, Government Relations Coordinator, Political Liaison Lawyer,
Government Relations Coordinator - WV

Gil White is a former 14-year elected member of the West Virginia State Legislature and a former political liaison to Governor Joe Manchin III.

During the 2016 WV Legislative Session, Mr. White discussed the sales tax exemption bill with Phil Kabler of The Charleston Gazette-Mail.  Click here to read the article.  

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