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Exemption on income passes House

February 2, 2019
Del. Zach Maynard, R-Lincoln, rises in support of a bill to exempt Social Security income from being taxed by the state Friday in Charleston.

CHARLESTON — Fulfilling promises made during campaign season by many delegates, the West Virginia House of Delegates on Friday passed a bill to exempt Social Security income from the state income tax.

Aligning with Gov. Jim Justice’s proposal in his State of the State address, House Bill 2001 exempts all Social Security income regardless of the amount from the state’s income tax.

“We have a lot of senior citizens taking care of our kids,” said Del. Zach Maynard, R-Lincoln, who added he was raised by his grandparents. “If you don’t think this bill will help the bottom line of these families, it will.”

Currently, 78 percent of the 468,120 Social Security beneficiaries in the state are exempt from Social Security taxation because their total income is below $25,000 (for a single filer).

Those with a total income between $25,000 and $34,000 can have up to half of Social Security benefits taxed, and those bringing in more than $35,000 can have 85 percent of their benefits taxed.

Del. Larry Rowe, D-Kanawha, voted in favor of the bill but said it does not help the poorest seniors because they are already exempt.

He said the House has to renew its commitment to those senior citizens and offered some

ways to do that, [including raising the minimum pension for state employees and increasing the meal rate for senior centers.

The bill does come with a $50 million reduction in tax revenue to the state. Del. John Doyle, D-Jefferson, said although he receives full Social Security, he could not vote for the bill because he didn’t feel the state could lose that revenue. He was the sole delegate to vote against the measure.

Several delegates rose to speak in favor of the bill, saying it was the No. 1 issue for seniors they spoke to on the campaign trail.

“I practice every day and take care of people this will benefit,” said Del. Matt Rohrbach, R-Ca-bell, a physician. “I hear people say, ‘I can’t afford my prescriptions anymore. I can’t afford my utilities anymore.’ This is real. This is tangible. I urge every member to vote yes because it matters to our seniors.”

The bill will now go to the Senate for consideration.

Follow reporter Taylor Stuck @TaylorStuckHD on Twitter and Facebook.

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