Justice recovered from COVID, hitting the road to promote tax cut plan

Jan. 25—Gov. Jim Justice is once again taking his show on the road but this time it is an effort to promote his plan to cut the state personal income tax in half.

The plan would cut the tax by 30 percent this year, 10 percent in 2024 and 10 percent in 2025.

The House has already passed the bill by an overwhelming 95-2 vote, but skepticism remains in the Senate, which is hedging on taking the risk of losing so much state revenue in a short amount of time.

Each 10 percent of the personal income tax cut represents about $258 million less in the state's coffers, which means that over the course of three years the state would lose about $1.3 billion in revenue.

But Justice maintains the state's revenue surpluses last year ($1.3 billion), this year's projected $1.7 billion and future surplus revenue numbers will more than cover the losses.

"No question this is the way to go," he said Tuesday during his virtual Administration briefing, which replaces the pandemic briefing. "I am very hopeful the Senate will come our way."

Justice said all of the financial experts have vetted the numbers to make sure "we don't overextend ourselves" with the tax cut.

"We absolutely have this covered," he said, reiterating that $700 million would be set aside in a PIT (personal income tax) rainy day fund if needed down the road to fill any gaps. However, he continues to maintain the money will never be needed for that purpose.

Justice said is it time to put money back into the pockets of taxpayers, and that the more than $1 billion returned to taxpayers will be pumped right back into the economy.

Town hall meetings are being held, he said, to engage residents in an educational way to explain in detail all of the benefits of the tax cut, including bringing more people to the state.

"I am not going to bash anyone or throw rocks," he said, referring to Senate GOP who have expressed hesitancy on passing his bill. "I am going to explain and promote my plan. My plan is simple. I want you to have a 50 percent cut in your income tax."

Justice said the 50 percent cut over three years will "jump start" the path to ending the tax all together.

That is what nine other states have done, he said, and they are seeing growth.

When questioned about statistics that show some of those states raised other taxes to help raise revenue after the tax cut, Justice said that won't happen in West Virginia.

"That does not cause me a bit of concern," he said. "I am rock solid confident in the numbers. We won't need to do that ... it is absolutely unnecessary."

Justice said the Senate "knows and understands" his plan and he remains hopeful his GOP colleagues will get on board.

Last year, the Senate pushed for the passage of Amendment 2, related to changing the state Constitution giving legislators the power to change or end the local vehicle personal property tax and the equipment and inventory tax.

Justice opposed the amendment and launched a series of town hall meetings around the state to try to convince voters to vote it down. They voted against it by a 65 percent to 35 percent margin.

This time, the focus is on promoting his tax plan with residents.

Justice held a town hall meeting on the subject in Charleston Tuesday and has one scheduled for today in Parkersburg, and Thursday in Beckley at the Tamarack Conference Center at noon. Another one is set for Friday in Wheeling.

Secretary of Revenue Dave Hardy will accompany him.

During Tuesday's briefing, Justice also said he has fully recovered from his second bout with COVID.

"I am in good shape," he said. "I am ready to go."

— Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com

Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com