(The Center Square) – With the West Virginia legislative session approaching, some Republican lawmakers have expressed interest in proposing bills to fully eliminate the state income tax.
Gov. Jim Justice expressed interest in his plan to join the nine other states without an income tax after Republicans made impressive gains in the state legislature during the 2020 elections. Although Republicans already had a majority in the House and Senate, the November victories propelled them to a supermajority in both chambers.
The House of Delegates has a 76-23 Republican majority and the Senate has a 23-11 majority, which will make it more difficult than ever for Democrats to halt Republican legislative goals.
Legislation to repeal the income tax has yet to be introduced, but many expect all plans to include tax hikes elsewhere to make up for lost revenue. Neither Democratic nor Republican lawmakers in either chamber responded to requests for comment from The Center Square about potential plans.
Jessica Dobrinsky, a policy development associate at the free-market Cardinal Institute for West Virginia Policy told The Center Square that raising other taxes would make up for lost revenue, but that elimination of the income tax should not simply be a shift in taxation, which would miss the point of tax reform entirely.
“Instead, it should incentivize the government to practice conservative fiscal spending, evaluating each portion of our government’s yearly expenses,” Dobrinsky said. “Additionally, a vital piece of the bill must include ‘tax triggers,’ a mechanism to ensure the taxation rate only decreases at the rate of revenue forecasts. Legislation to eliminate the personal income tax could change West Virginia’s landscape. Across the country, states without the tax have traditionally experienced higher growth rates in population and business.”
West Virginia has lost about 50,000 residents in the last decade, which is at the bottom of the ranking, Dobrinsky said. From education to the business climate, she said the state is trailing its neighbors and marginal changes will not lead to the transformative results West Virginia needs.