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SB Wednesday: bills in WV that could impact workers, small business owners

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Bluefield, W.Va (WVVA) - WVVA is helping to answer viewers' questions about small business and personal finance. Joining us at 5 p.m. every Wednesday is John O'Neal, the Executive Director of the Development Authority of Mercer County.

WVVA: On Wednesday March 24, we continue our series for Small Business Wednesday on the bills in the West Virginia Legislature that will most impact small business and workers in our state. John, what are some of the most important bills that are under consideration this year?

O'Neal: There are only a couple of weeks left in the legislative session this year. Dozens of bills have completed the legislative process and been signed into law by the Governor.

Today we will focus on a couple of bills that may have significant impact on small business owners in West Virginia. SB277, the Covid-19 Jobs Protection Act, passed with broad bipartisan support. The intent of the bill is to provide assurances to businesses that reopening will not expose them to liability for a person's exposure to COVID-19.

The bill encourages employers to fully resume operations as rapidly as possible, without fear of lawsuits that could put them out of business. The protections for business owners in this bill are very broad, among the strongest in the nation for Covid-19 immunity. It sends a strong signal that West Virginia wants to get back open for business.

One Senator stated in support of the bill that Covid-19 is everywhere. There is no way to determine how or where someone might have contracted it, so we shouldn't force business owners to live in fear that their livelihoods will be taken from them in a Covid-19 lawsuit claim.

WVVA: What is the status of Governor Justice's bill to eliminate the state personal income tax in West Virginia?

O'Neal: Arguably the most watched bill in the session this year is the Governor's proposal to eliminate the state personal income tax. Governor Justice believes that this action will lead to jobs and population growth in the Mountain State.

The plan would provide a rebate check for West Virginians earning under $35,000 per year, while high income earners would see their taxes reduced immediately by 60%, and eliminated eventually.

This would make West Virginia the only state in our mid-Atlantic region without a state income tax, which the Governor believes will lead to huge benefits for our state.

The Governor's bill is currently under consideration in the House Finance Committee, where it is being amended. There is a public hearing on the bill on Thursday.

WVVA: Most working West Virginians would love a tax break. But how will the state compensate for the lost revenue from the income tax?

O'Neal: That is the issue now. In order to fund the bill, the Governor's plan calls for an increase in sales tax rates, as well as additional taxes on tobacco, soft drinks, beer, wine, and liquor.

Many House members are not comfortable with these tax increases in order to fund the elimination of the income tax.

The House Finance Committee has originated its own bill, HB3300, which seeks to eliminate the state income tax gradually over seven years, without tax increases in other areas.

It is funded by revenue growth each year that normally occurs in the state. We are watching this bill closely. Look for more twists and turns as this bill makes its way through the legislative process in the closing days of the session

There are many more bills making their way through the process that will impact small business and workers in our state this session. We will review the issues and the status of these bills, and report back to the viewers each week while the legislature remains in session.

WVVA: Please join us the next few weeks as Small Business Wednesday examines the new legislation that will impact small business and workers in our state.

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Melinda Zosh

Evening Anchor and Producer

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