W.Va. Gov. Justice optimistic; 50% income tax cut far from certain

W.Va. Gov. Justice talks tax cut
Published: Jan. 12, 2023 at 7:11 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - West Virginia’s governor hopes to cut your family’s state income tax in half, but don’t go to the bank quite yet as negotations for a final deal continue.

Gov. Jim Justice discussed the plan Thursday with WSAZ Investigative/Political Reporter Curtis Johnson.

“At the end of the day, if we could end up with a 50 percent income tax cut, across the board, to all West Virginians and everything, I think we’d all be dancing in the streets,” he said.

The tax cut would be phased in over three years -- a 30 percent cut, followed by 10 percent cuts the next two years.

Justice says that’s in addition to a rebate of your car tax, but it’s not that easy. There has been no change in West Virginia’s income tax rate since 1987.

“A tax cut didn’t pass in ‘21. A tax cut last year did not pass. What makes you think you can get one passed this year upstairs?” Johnson asked.

“Because, you know, in years past, we haven’t had billions of dollars of surplus,” Justice replied. “That’s A. And B is, we didn’t have, really and truly we did not have the knowledge and education that people have today.

“People get it now, and people understand the benefit of what we’re talking about. That’s why I’m optimistic,” he added.

The governor described a 50 percent tax cut as a cannonball splash into a pool, offering that comparison Wednesday night during his State of the State address.

The plan is too ambitious for Senate Finance Chairman Eric Tarr, R-Putnam, and House Democrats.

“It’s risky,” Tarr said. “It’s just unsafe. It’s unsafe. It’s unsafe for your family, because you’re going to now, bank on an increase in revenue that came into your family, then a future legislature is going to have to go back and say, ‘Oops, we’re going to have to go back and raise taxes somewhere.’ Now your income goes down.”

“I think the numbers they’re talking about, long term, could put us on a trajectory to where we’re going to be in the red here in a couple more years without fixing the main problems at CPS workers, correctional officers, teachers and everything else that we have not taken care of over the last six years,” Del. Joey Garcia, D-Marion, said at a Thursday press conference by House Democrats.

“Is that the case?” Johnson asked the governor.

“No way. No chance. And the reason no chance, there’s no way in the world that I’d do that,” Justice replied. “When I walked in the door, we were bankrupt, and look where we are today. Do you think I’m going to walk out of the door and have us in trouble? There’s no way. There’s no chance. Literally, the numbers have been vetted, and vetted, and vetted and vetted.”

The Senate plan consists of a smaller income tax cut, approximately 15 percent in one year, with a property tax rebate for business. That rebate similar to Justice’s car tax proposal.

Tarr said the Senate plan will boost the state’s economy.

Justice said it is not the best approach.

“Can you support something like that?” Johnson asked.

“It’d be really hard for me to do that,” Justice replied. “If you get too many different things, you’re going to have a lot of things that you’re pretty good on, a lot of things, and nothing you’re real good at.”

Democrats criticized the governor, House and Senate at their Thursday press conference. They said leaders should have drafted a plan this summer instead of wasting time in the 60-day session.

Justice and Senate leadership, though, said all sides met Thursday morning for breakfast -- a broad discussion with no commitments, but a willingness to continue talks.

Perhaps a break in a stalemate between politicians that has a direct impact on your wallet.

The governor and House leaders have remained in communication. That leads Justice to believe his proposal could pass the House of Delegates very soon.