Justice, leaders still divided on budget

MORGANTOWN (AP) — Nearly two weeks after West Virginia’s Democratic governor vetoed the budget approved by the Republican-controlled Legislature, negotiations have yet to resolve disagreements on tax changes and spending cuts.

However, Gov. Jim Justice said Tuesday that he’ll call legislators back to a special budget session “real soon.”

He didn’t say exactly when that will be but said he hopes the framework of a tentative agreement reached earlier with the Senate leadership will still hold.

That would limit funding cuts and lower the state income tax while raising the sales tax to close a budget deficit projected at up to $500 million. The new fiscal year starts July 1.

“What we’ve got it’s an unbelievable plan … a plan to take us to prosperity,” Justice said. “And not only that, you will wake into a 20 percent or maybe even a 40 percent reduction in your state income tax.”

That framework would limit cuts to public schools, higher education, social services and Medicaid. It would raise the state sales tax from 6 percent to 7 percent, add a corporate revenues tax of 0.00045 percent and in 2018, lower income taxes.

“This is a tax cut for every working West Virginian,” said Senate President Mitch Carmichael, who has been in active talks this week with the governor. Carmichael said he has been meeting separately with the House leadership, that they’d need to be brought onboard, and like them, he opposes the proposed corporate tax.