West Virginia Legislature opens with a full slate of issues

Inside West Virginia Politics

CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — The West Virginia House of Delegates and State Senate both gaveled in at noon on Wednesday with everyone wearing masks due to COVID-19. The challenges are mostly familiar ones, like fixing state roads and improving poor broadband service, but there is a more controversial one: the Governor’s desire to reduce or phase out the state’s personal income tax.

“We want to bring more people to West Virginia and this is one way to help to do that. And also, it is our people that are here. It’s a way to put more money in their pockets,” said Majority Leader Amy Summers.

But Democrats wonder how to replace the $2 billion a year the business and income taxes both generate.

“Elimination of the West Virginia state income tax, which will poke a hole in about 40-percent of the budget,” said Minority Whip, State Sen. Mike Woelfel.

Another controversial idea is coming back, too: Creating Education Savings Accounts, known as ESAs, where parents can use their property tax funds to instead send their kids to private schools.

“And we think that education savings accounts are the best vehicle to get there because it makes sure we’re funding students instead of systems,” said Jason Huffman from Americans for Prosperity, of WV.

But battles over ESAs contributed to two-union-backed teachers’ strikes, leading to their defeat.

“The senators and delegates certainly have their work cut out for them. We’re probably looking at a budget of $4.5 billion, and they have 60 days to get it done,” said Mark Curtis, 13 News Chief Political Reporter.

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