Ashton Marra Published

Justice Criticizes Senate Democrats While Asking House to Vote on Tax Plan


After attempting to rally members of the Senate around his tax reform plan Tuesday, Gov. Jim Justice decided to also formally address members of the House of Delegates Wednesday.

Senators have already approved the measure to significantly alter the state’s tax code, but with only Republican support. Justice largely focused on his disappointment with Senate Democrats in his speech to the House.

“[Tuesday] you saw something that was terribly, terribly disappointing and unbelievable to me. Unbelievable,” he said. 

The Senate voted 19-11 Tuesday on the Justice-backed tax reform plan, with all Democrats in attendance voting against it. 

The tax reform measure would raise the consumer sales tax from 6 to 6.95 percent. It would restructure the personal income tax, cutting the tax rate for all income brackets and setting triggers for its eventual repeal. It raises the corporate net income tax by half a percent, and it restructures the coal severance tax so companies pay based on the price per ton.

Senate Minority Leader Roman Prezioso said his caucus has been involved in negotiations over the bill, but they voted against it Tuesday because it was “piecemeal at best.”


Credit Perry Bennett / West Virginia Legislative Photography
West Virginia Legislative Photography
Senate Minority Leader Roman Prezioso.

Prezioso said House members have made it clear they’re not interested in the proposed changes to the personal income tax.

Justice called the move a “black eye” and said he was hurt by the vote that he wasn’t aware the Senate Democrats were going to take.

“This is a big boy’s game. There’s a lot at stake. The future of this state is at stake,” Prezioso said of the governor’s comments. “Don’t be hurt. Roll up your sleeves and get to work.”

Justice also attempted to change the minds of a number of Delegates who say they can’t support the measure, Delegates on both sides of the aisle.

To the House Democrats, Justice asked them to not “follow the leader just to be following the leader.” To House Republicans, Justice explained he and members of the majority party in the Senate had attempted to negotiate with House leaders.

“We’ve tried,” he said. “We’ve tried to compromise.”

But that compromise hasn’t been reached. 

House Republicans want a tax reform plan that focuses on the sales tax, getting rid of exemptions to lower the overall tax rate and still break even in terms of revenue.

House Finance Chair Eric Nelson said they also don’t want to increase taxes on businesses, like the corporate net income tax increase included in the bill, and they worry about deficits down the road.

Tweak the bill, Justice told members of the House, but put it to a vote.

The House Finance Committee has the Senate-approved Tax Reform Act of 2017 and will likely attempt to amend their own plan into it. Senators are going home though, waiting for the House to make its next move.