November and December tend to be a quiet time for West Virginia state politics. But we should soon start to hear what a possible legislative agenda in 2022 might look like.
The 2022 legislative session begins on Wednesday January 12 at noon and will end on Saturday March 12 at midnight. Governor Jim Justice will deliver his fifth state-of-state address on the first night of the session and present his budget for fiscal year 2023.
2022 being an election year, I would be surprised if major legislation were passed. The party primaries take place on Tuesday May 10, more than 40 days after the end of the session. Now is plenty of time to hammer your main opponent for a controversial vote on a bill.
Not to say that some bills will not raise eyebrows. Inevitably, our television media will cling to a bill that probably has no chance of getting on a committee’s agenda and creating controversy. I tend to focus on bills that come to committee because committee chairs have a great deal of latitude in which bills they put to a vote.
This is not to say that some bills should not be targeted, no matter how likely they are to be brought forward. Lawmakers should always be held accountable for the legislation they introduce. But let’s be honest. Many bills are introduced just to show a certain constituency that the bill has been introduced, knowing full well that it will not go anywhere. More often than not, they do not even support the bill they have introduced.
Keep in mind that the vast majority of bills that appear on the first day of the session are bills that have already been introduced. If you subtract all the repeat invoices that are recycled, I bet the number of new invoices introduced would be quite low. For example, of the 2,039 bills tabled in 2021 between the House of Delegates and the Senate, only 280 have gone through the process of signing by the governor. This only represents 13.7% of the total number of invoices in 2021.
The state constitution requires a 60-day session each year and our legislators are part-time, which means they have regular jobs. It’s not a long time to pass bills, which means legislative leaders and committee chairs have to triage – push the bills that have the best chance of making it through committees and a vote. , and let the rest float in legislative purgatory.
So what might we see in the next session? I would say the most important thing, unless the governor and lawmakers are shy and decide to wait, is another debate on how to phase out state income tax. .
As we saw last year, Justice and most of the Senate Republican caucus had a plan to phase it out, and House Republicans united behind a different plan. The governor’s / senate plan was more about shifting taxes from personal income taxes, while the House plan was a true phase-out with controls on new government spending to make up the difference.
Both plans predicted economic growth, although this is a difficult thing to estimate in the future. That’s why you hardly ever see me writing articles about the five-year budget forecast showing deficits or the PEIA needing new funds in the future. The budget forecast will still show the state in the red five years from now, and the PEIA will still look like it needs premium increases, as those same estimates struggle to predict the future when it comes to economic conditions.
Of course, it’s likely that a phase-out of personal income tax could attract more businesses here and generate more tax revenue from other sources to make up the difference when personal tax rates come down. will be reduced. But how many? My 8-ball is cloudy on this.
Instead of creating a big battle over personal income tax, we might instead see a push for a phased exit tax on natural gas and coal. Price increases for coal and natural gas extraction helped the state’s exit tax on coal and natural gas exceed estimates for the third consecutive month. The severance pay tax has brought in $ 116.3 million year-to-date, resulting in a surplus of $ 44 million. Justice has been pushing for a departure tax at several levels since 2017, when he took office.
As I reported recently, it is likely that we will see legislation creating a performance-based funding formula to determine how much taxpayer dollars will go to the state’s four- and two-year higher education institutions. Lawmakers have wanted it ever since House Major Whip Paul Espinosa, R-Jefferson, chaired the House Education Committee and pushed the Higher Education Policy Commission to develop a performance-based funding model in 2017.
Taxpayer money represents varying percentages of higher education budgets. In the case of West Virginia University, this is only about 10% of its total budget, but for small schools, it’s a higher percentage. Additionally, in the case of WVU, the college has increased its tuition fees every year since fiscal 2018, with the exception of the first year of the pandemic. Sources tell me to expect a tuition increase of at least 2% at WVU probably every year in the future.
Almost all of the state’s public colleges and universities, including WVU and Marshall University, are adhering to the HEPC’s performance-based funding plan project, modeled after the Tennessee program.
If I were a lawmaker, I would take this broad support with a grain of salt and really review the plan. When the foxes all put up with the new barn security system, that should sound the alarm bells.