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Democratic Senators Walk Out of Delayed Finance Meeting, Sales Tax Hike on Agenda

HalKessler2016.jpg
Martin Valent
/
West Virginia Legislative Photography
Senate Finance Chair Mike Hall speaks with Senate Minority Leader Jeff Kessler during a 2016 floor session.

A Senate Finance Committee meeting was abruptly canceled Wednesday morning after closed door meetings led to all but one Democratic member of the committee walking out.

The committee was set to discuss amendments to a bill that would increase the state’s consumer sales tax by 1 percent, bringing in $196 million to help close a $272 million hole in the 2017 budget.

The bill was placed on the special session call by Gov. Tomblin that brought lawmakers back to Charleston May 16 to work on a budget deal. 

That call came, however, without a consensus on how to balance the 2017 budget, which must be in place by June 30 to avoid a government shutdown.

After cancelling the meeting, Senate Finance Chair Mike Hall said after morning conversations about the consumer sales tax bill and the overall budget, he decided it would be better for committee members to “take a little time to work some of this out.”

“We thought we had somewhat of, not necessarily an agreement, but a possible outcome that would’ve been good, but we’re not going to work on it today,” Hall said, adding his committee is still in possession of the bill and could potentially work on it again in the near future.

Instead, Hall said he and his staff will continue to work on the Senate’s version of the 2017 budget which leadership stated on the chamber floor Tuesday they wanted to put to a final vote Thursday.

“We have to get the budget document done and I can’t get involved in a long detour,” Hall said.

The Senate's budget bill is scheduled to be on second reading, the amendment phase, in the chamber Wednesday afternoon.


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