CHARLESTON — Republican West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice issued a proclamation Wednesday extending the state legislature's session by one day in order to pass a budget.
The Republican supermajority in the statehouse is days away from the end of its 60-day session without an agreement on its top priority, cutting the state's income tax.
The budget hinges on lawmakers deciding how to move forward. The income tax makes up about 40% of state revenue.
Justice's extension would allow the legislature to run into Sunday and to only consider matters related to the budget.
Legislative leaders and the governor made little progress on a tax reform compromise at a summit on Monday.
Justice, who led the charge for tax reform with his original proposal in March, presented a revised version at the meeting, less than a week after he said Republican senators blindsided him with their own plan.
The Republican governor’s new plan would cut the income tax by 50%, rather than 60%. From his original proposal, it retains raising the sales tax from 6% to 7.9% and a new tax on luxury items. It also contains an unspecified tax rebate for those earning $35,000 or less, which did not figure into plans released by House and Senate Republicans.
Republican legislative leaders remained hesitant about the governor’s pitch to raise severance taxes on industries such as coal, oil and natural gas.
But the Republican Senate president, Craig Blair, indicated that he did not have an issue with the governor’s proposed luxury tax on any purchased item of at least $5,000, a provision that was not part of the Senate bill.
Liberal groups are rallying opposition to all of the proposals to cut the income tax, arguing that a higher sales tax will hurt the poor and working class.
Republicans say they want to enact a tax overhaul this year in the hopes that lower taxes will drive residents to move into the state, where the population has been declining.