Liz McCormick Published

Lawmakers Struggle with Right Course of Action for Tax Reform


As part of a continuing effort exploring possible changes to the state tax code, members of the Joint Select

Committee on Tax Reform held a day-long public hearing at the capitol Tuesday. The hearing allowed West Virginia citizens to share their suggestions for ways to improve the state’s tax structure, and while at least a dozen citizens showed, few lawmakers filled the seats to listen. That, however, didn’t stop members of the public from openly sharing what they think are the right steps for West Virginia.

From eliminating certain taxes to increasing others – the Joint Select Committee on Tax Reform heard it all.

Many speakers at Tuesday’s public hearing brought up issues with the state’s severance tax, property tax, and income tax credit – giving their own ideas to either lessen the pull or to increase revenue.

Some mentioned the benefits of increasing the tax on tobacco, saying it would help to decrease the amount of West Virginia smokers while also bringing in more money at the same time.

Speakers asked lawmakers to remember the children who come from families making minimum wage and live paycheck to paycheck.

Senator Mike Hall, a Republican from Putnam County, shares the chairmanship with Delegate Eric Nelson, a Republican from Kanawha County.

Hall says the tax reform committees in both houses will have a lot to think about.

“We heard a wide array of comments,” Hall noted, “We heard about the income tax credit, which we were aware we would, but we also heard from the coal association, business community, saying there are certain taxes here that really hurt us, and though it will be difficult to deal with those quickly, because there are multi-millions of dollars of revenue, it’s important for us to hear that.”

Hall says the looming question this session will be how to adequately manage reforming the tax structure in a low budget year.

“Revenues are down, can we live with them, there’ll be a lot of pressure from people to raise this or raise that to cover costs, but, right now, so we’re in a mode of seeing where can we operate, the revenues are low, and so it’ll be very hard to talk about tax policy in this climate in the legislative session, but I think at the end of the day, when the committee’s done, we’ll have a few things to propose and some major principles to look at and say going forward as things would permit that we would like to see our tax code be changed in a manner that would be more beneficial to our economy.”

Tax reform is likely to be at the forefront of the 2016 session, and legislators know they face a contentious battle ahead.