We are just over halfway through West Virginia’s 60-day legislative session, and there is plenty to talk about. Let’s dive right in.
2020 has seen the perennial return to eliminate the Business Personal Property Tax on manufacturing, inventory, equipment and machinery. This is a critical source of revenue for our counties’ public school systems and public safety services, and are investments that are necessary for communities to flourish.
Two resolutions have been introduced (SJR 8 and SJR 9). While there are significant differences between them, the end result is the same: shift the responsibility for community services and education from mostly out-of- state corporations onto working families, or cut those services that will hurt our schools and our public safety. Learn more from Senior Policy Analyst Sean O’Leary’s blog post. Check out coverage of Executive Director Ted Boettner’s committee testimony.
The governor’s proposed FY 2021 budget was officially released with very little in changes from the FY 2020 budget. With revenues stagnating, there is very little in proposed new spending initiatives, while relying on some one-time budget maneuvers to avoid deep spending cuts.
Overall, the proposed FY 2021 base budget (spending from the general revenue and lottery funds) totals $5.02 billion, a decrease of about $74 million from the FY 2020 base budget. Learn more about the details and potential trouble for future budgets here.
Over on the House of Delegates side, the priority looks to be smaller tax bills that are hyper focused on the natural gas industry. Two stick out in particular: HB 4019, a tax break for companies who create a minimum of five new jobs in the downstream natural gas industry and HB 4421, the Natural Gas Liquids Development Act which would cut taxes on Liquid storage facilities and looks to be directed towards a potential “Natural Gas Storage Hub.”
Both bills raise similar concerns and offer tax credits on the personal income and the corporate income tax that are estimated to cost the state’s general revenue fund $9 million and $1 million, respectively. West Virginia has a long history with business tax cuts and their inability to stimulate economic growth. We would be much better off investing in the health and education of our people if we wanted to improve our overall business climate and workforce participation.
One of the highlights of the governor’s State of the State address included a commitment to a long-overdue increase to the administrative line item of West Virginia’s food banks. This is a major win that the Food For All Coalition has advocated for since its inception. Stay tuned for opportunities to get this important policy over the finish line.
Check out coverage from the House of Delegate’s Hunger Caucus for more information on other food security initiatives and watch for movement on other bills that positively impact food security in West Virginia as the session rolls along.
The Healthcare for All WV Coalition is getting some positive traction on a proactive health care agenda for West Virginia.
HB 4543 would cap the monthly copays that West Virginians with diabetes with private insurance could be charged for insulin. The bill has made it through the House Health and Banking and Insurance Committees and currently awaits a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee. This bill would give thousands of West Virginia families the ability to afford their medications without having to choose between insulin or other necessities like food and utilities. Early evidence from a similar policy in Colorado shows that copay caps have “negligible or no impact” on overall insurance premiums.
SB 648 is a bi-partisan effort to include adult dental benefits for adults on Medicaid. Dental health is a crucial piece of overall health and this bill would help meet the unmet needs of thousands of West Virginians while improving workforce outcomes, lowering uncompensated care costs in ER’s and breaking the cycle of poor health conditions directly related to dental problems. The bill currently is in Senate Health.
SB 286 would prohibit syringe exchange programs. The evidence is overwhelmingly clear. Syringe exchange programs are critical tools in harm reduction, including limiting the spread infectious diseases, getting more people into treatment driving down hospital costs due to illnesses related to re-using syringes and reducing the stigma associated with addiction. Did I mention Syringe Exchange Programs are cost-effective?
Building off the landmark 2019 session, coalition partners are hard at work pursuing policy changes to reform West Virginia’s criminal justice system.
Here are a few bills we are tracking:
H.B. 4716 Fairness in Employment Act aka “Ban the Box” This bill would prohibit public employers from asking applicants to “check the box” when applying for a job. Read Senior Policy Analyst Sean O’Leary’s excellent report on this issue.
H.B. 4432 (same as S.B. 562) – Expanding expungement eligibility as well as making expungement for non-convictions automatic. These bills would build off last year’s expungement legislation. Keep an eye on the Judiciary committee agendas for these bills.
H.B. 4717 – Civil Asset Forfeiture which relates to reporting and monitoring of all civil asset forfeitures – currently in House Judiciary.
The West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy wishes to thank all of our coalition partners for your continued support fighting for the issues that matter to low-income West Virginians. As the session moves forward, things are bound to change quickly. Keep a close eye on our social media feeds as well as your inbox for action alerts and your weekly Budget Beat update.
We have a great newsletter, join below: