Mountain State lawmakers contemplate elimination of income tax

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SHE{HERDSTOWN, W.Va. (WDVM) — The West Virginia legislature will not reconvene until next month but lawmakers seem to be in a tax-cutting mood. But some lawmakers are warning to take a look at the “fine print” in any such proposal.

Senate President Craig Blair, from the eastern panhandle, is proposing to eliminate West Virginia’s personal income tax. That would put a $10 billion hole in the state budget which Blair says could be filled by raising the sales tax. But that doesn’t sit well with another member of the legislature from the eastern panhandle, veteran Delegate John Doyle (D- Jefferson County).

“If you try and replace it from raising the sales tax we will have the highest sales tax in the country,” exclaims Doyle, “so high it will do serious damage to our tourism industry.”

But that doesn’t deter support for eliminating the income tax altogether. Just ask a Shepherdstown resident who goes by the name “Mister Watkins.” He has spent time in New Hampshire, which has no income tax and attracts many residents from neighboring “Tax-a-chusetts.”

“It’s probably going to work pretty well to eliminate the income tax,” Watkins says. “It attracts people and leads to a healthier economy.”

But what New Hampshire loses in income tax it makes up for in property tax. Says Delegate Doyle, there is no magic wand to recoup lost revenue from lifting the income tax. It means, he says, “much larger class sizes and paying our teachers even less money than we’re paying them now. And we’re already just about the lowest-paid school teachers in the county.”

And learn from other states where this has been tried, says Delegate Doyle.

“Kansas went through this half a dozen years ago and they’re still recovering from it,” Doyle exclaims.

The legislature will convene on February 10. By some estimates, if the income tax is eliminated, the state may have to raise the sales tax to more than 10 percent.

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