Senator Ryan Ferns’ History with Tax Legislation

Ryan Ferns advocated moving “the state’s tax structure” to one based on sales taxes, even though such a change “would hit middle-class and lower income families hardest. ‘Replacing West Virginia’s personal income tax with a higher sales tax would be a large tax cut for the top 1 percent of wage earners and a sizable tax increase for most families.’” A specific plan he supported would impose a “tax on food…at a rate of 3.5 percent,” impose sales taxes on telecommunications, some services provided by funeral homes, educational summer camps, and music instruction, and increase the “tax on mobile homes.”

“During a…debate on the floor of the West Virginia Senate, Senate Majority Leader Ryan Ferns, R-Ohio, called a plan to move the state’s tax structure to consumption taxes and eventually eliminate the personal income tax a ‘bold, aggressive approach’ that would send the Mountain State ‘on a path to real prosperity.’” (Cardinal Institute for West Virginia Policy, 05/29/17)

“Under Senate Bill 409, [the] personal income tax would be lowered and divided into three brackets. For people making up to $20,000, the rate would be 1.85 percent; 3.65 percent for people making $20,000 to $35,000; and 5.45 percent for people making more than $35,000. For married individuals, the rates are 1.85 percent for incomes up to $10,000; 3.65 percent for incomes between $10,000 to $17,500 and 5.45 percent for incomes more than $17,500. A consumption tax would be created at a rate of 7 percent and the tax on food would come back

at a rate of 3.5 percent.” The bill would also eliminate “exemptions including delivered newspapers, telecommunications, embalming and funeral directing, educational summer camps, health and fitness club memberships, music instruction and travel agency fees.” It would also bring “up the tax on mobile homes to the full rate.

The bill also has a low income senior citizen tax credit. The severance tax on coal would be lowered in five equal parts annually…until coal production is taxed at 2.5 percent.”

“Sen. Corey Palumbo, D-Kanawha, was concerned that the measure shifts the tax burden from the upper income to middle and low-income families. ‘I acknowledge that this is a vehicle to help with the budget, but it is a broken down junk vehicle,’ Palumbo said. ‘We should use a better vehicle to handle the budget.’

Sen. Mike Woelfel, D-Cabell, also is concerned that the tax is regressive. ‘It’s good to be rich and that’s what this is,’ Woelfel said. ‘This is a room full of smart people, well-intentioned people, but this is a regressive tax structure. It’s the old trickle down economic theory that has been rejected around the country for decades and look at what it’s doing to people who can afford it the least. You can dress it up, talk about it any way you like, but it’s regressive,’ he later

said. ‘It’s unfair to the middle class. It undercuts the middle class and it undercuts more than anyone the working poor.’” (The Register-Herald, 03/29/17)

Ted Boettner, executive director of the West Virginia Center on Budget & Policy, “said reducing or eliminating the income tax and raising sales taxes would hit middle-class and lower income families hardest. ‘Replacing West Virginia’s personal income tax with a higher sales tax would be a large tax cut for the top 1 percent of wage earners and a sizable tax increase for most families,’ Boettner wrote.”

“Garrett Ballengee, director of the conservative Cardinal Institute for West Virginia Policy,” agreed that “consumption taxes hit those earning less money the hardest.” (Cardinal Institute for West Virginia Policy, 05/29/17)

“Supporter Sen. Ryan Ferns, R-Ohio, said the measure has been given much consideration, adding that the Committee on Tax Reform looked at it 18 months before the start of session. He also said the committees several economists have said if it were to pass, the bill would grow the state’s economy. ‘Time and time again, we’ve heard that reducing the income tax is the single greatest driver for economic growth,’ he said, later adding, ‘We are in constant competition with

our neighbors. This is a tremendous step for our state.’” (The Register-Herald, 03/29/17)

Ryan Ferns, on March 29, 2017, was one of 22 state senators who voted to pass Senate Bill 409. (Senate Bill 409, 2017)

Months later, “Senate Majority Leader Ryan Ferns, R-Ohio, serving as conference committee cochairman” on House Bill 107, “said there is general consensus for the framework of the revenue plan:

• Increasing the sales tax from 6 percent to 6.5 percent, while eliminating current exemptions for telecommunication services and digital downloads, to raise about $190 million a year.”

• “A…7-percent to 6-percent phase-down of income tax rates, with yet-to-be determined economic thresholds, or ‘triggers’ to determine when the second and third phase of the reductions will occur. The three phases would cut tax collection by $360 million a year.” (Mineral Daily News-Tribune, 06/10/17)

 

Ryan Ferns, in 2017, sponsored a bill to replace income taxes with “a broad-based 8 percent sales tax…despite concerns that it could hurt lower- and middle-class families and state retailers.” In addition, this bill “would eliminate…existing sales tax exemptions on utility payments and on many personal and professional services. The bill also would impose an 8 percent sales tax on groceries, which…[at the time were] not taxed.”

Ryan Ferns, in 2017, was a sponsor of Senate Bill 335, which was a bill to eliminate the personal “income tax, corporate net and severance tax rates, replacing them with a broad-based 8 percent sales tax…despite concerns that it could hurt lower- and middle-class families and state retailers.”

“Sen. Robert Plymale, D-Wayne, raised concerns with the proposed 8 percent consumption tax, which would eliminate many existing sales tax exemptions on utility payments and on many personal and professional services. The bill also would impose an 8 percent sales tax on groceries, which…[at the time were] not taxed.” (Senate Bill 335, 2017, and Charleston Gazette-Mail, 03/21/17)

 

Ryan Ferns, in 2017, voted for legislation to “raise the state sales tax by 21 percent” and shift the “tax burden from upper-class to middle- and lower-class West Virginians.”

Ryan Ferns, on May 24, 2017, was one of 18 state senators who voted to pass House Bill 107, which was a bill to “lower income taxes by 20 percent over two years and give a $50 million a year tax break to the coal industry, but would raise the state sales tax by 21 percent to make up for…lost tax revenue.” Many “opponents said raising sales taxes to partially make up for lost revenue from income tax cuts amounts to shifting [the] tax burden from upper-class to middle and lower-class West Virginians.” (House Bill 107, 2017, and Charleston Gazette-Mail, 05/25/17)

 

Ryan Ferns, in 2011, voted to increase approximately two dozen Division of Motor Vehicle (DMV) fees, including vehicle title fees, which would have more than quadrupled, and vehicle registration fees. The costs of drivers’ licenses would have gone “from $12.50 for five years, to $32.50.”

Ryan Ferns, on March 11, 2011, was one of 58 state House members who voted to pass Senate Bill 608, which was a bill to increase approximately two dozen DMV “fees to raise about $40 million a year for the state Road Fund, to be dedicated to secondary road maintenance. Among the many changes, vehicle registration fees would have gone “from $28.50 to $45 a year, and costs of drivers’ licenses would” have gone “from $12.50 for five years, to $32.50.” In addition, vehicle title fees would have more than quadrupled “from $5 to $21.” (Senate Bill 608, 2011, The Associated Press State & Local Wire, 03/13/11, and Charleston Gazette, 03/13/11)

 

Ryan Ferns, in 2017, voted for a bill to “increase the state excise tax on gasoline by 4.5 cents a gallon” and “raise a number of Division of Motor Vehicles fees,” including “the vehicle registration fee from $30 to $50 a year.” After that bill failed he voted for a bill to increase “the state’s gas tax, some Division of Motor Vehicles fees, and the privilege tax on buying a car while eliminating the privilege tax exemption for trade-ins.” The privilege tax was raised “from 5 percent of the total cost of purchasing a vehicle to 6 percent of the cost. The removal of the exemption means West Virginians will pay the privilege tax on the actual prices of the vehicles before the trade-in value is subtracted from it.”

 

The gas tax “increase averages out to about 3.5 cents more per gallon.” As for the DMV fees, the registration fee increased “from $28.50 to $50 per year, and the cost of an inspection sticker…[went] from $5 to $10.” These changes could “generate an additional $100 million annually.”

Ryan Ferns, on March 25, 2017, was one of 27 Senators who voted to pass Senate Bill 477, which was a bill to “increase the state excise tax on gasoline by 4.5 cents a gallon” and “raise a number of Division of Motor Vehicles fees, many that have not increased since the 1970s, most notably raising the vehicle registration fee from $30 to $50 a year.” The increases were expected to “raise about $131 million a year.” (Senate Bill 477, 2017, and Charleston Gazette-Mail, 03/26/17)

Ryan Ferns, on June 16, 2017, was one of 23 state senators who voted to pass Senate Bill 1006, which “increases the state’s gas tax, some Division of Motor Vehicles fees, and the privilege tax on buying a car while eliminating the privilege tax exemption for trade-ins.” The privilege tax was raised “from 5 percent of the total cost of purchasing a vehicle to 6 percent of the cost. The removal of the exemption means West Virginians will pay the privilege tax on the actual prices

of the vehicles before the trade-in value is subtracted from it. The increase to the gas tax keeps the margins of the variable minimum wholesale gas tax the

same, but it increases the highest and lowest amounts that can be charged via that tax. The variable minimum tax fluctuates annually in conjunction with the wholesale price of gas in West Virginia. The increase averages out to about 3.5 cents more per gallon. The bill also allows for a variety of DMV fees to increase, including those on titles, registration and inspection stickers. For example, the registration fee will increase from $28.50 to $50 per year, and the cost of an inspection sticker will go from $5 to $10.”

“Additionally, the bill increases registration fees for eco-friendly vehicles, with lawmakers reasoning that hybrid vehicles still create wear and tear on the state’s roads even if they aren’t fueled by gasoline. Owners of vehicles fueled only by hydrogen, natural gas or electricity will pay $200 per year in registration fees, and owners of vehicles fueled by a combination of electricity and gasoline will pay $100.” (Senate Bill 1006, 2017, and The Herald-Dispatch, 06/23/17)

“The bill could generate an additional $100 million annually for road construction and maintenance.” (Charleston Gazette-Mail, 06/09/17)

 

Ryan Ferns called massive increases in the state gas tax and DMV fees “good news” and “reasonable.”

“During the special session in June (2017), the Legislature passed $130 million in additional annual revenue from gas taxes and other fees” to fund road projects. (Mineral Daily News-Tribune, 09/14/17)

More specifically, the legislature changed “the way the wholesale portion of the state gas tax is calculated, amounting to a roughly 3-cent-per-gallon increase,” increased “the privilege tax on motor vehicle purchases from 5 percent to 6 percent,” and increased “a number of DMV fees.” The most significant increase in DMV fees “raises the fee for Class A registration for passenger vehicles from $28.50 to $50.”

“The legislation also imposes new registration fees of $100 for hybrid vehicles, and $200 for alternate fuel vehicles, to help offset lost gas tax revenue.” (Charleston Gazette-Mail, 06/23/17) Ryan Ferns, in 2017, co-signed a letter encouraging voters to support the Roads to Prosperity Amendment, which would “enable bond proceeds to go directly into the state road fund to begin

immediate construction and improvement of our roads, bridges and highways.”

“The good news is that the payment has already been started.” During the special session in 2017 the state legislature passed “a new funding source for the State Road Fund. The $130 million per year from these adjustments to the State Road Fund will be more than enough to cover our annual obligation on the bonds.” (Charleston Gazette-Mail, 10/01/17)

Ryan Ferns, in reference to the $130 million tax increase, said in an interview, “I think it’s reasonable” and “I think [it] is a good tax policy position.” (Talkline with Hoppy Kercheval, Video - 4:19, 05/16/17)

 

Ryan Ferns, in 2017, called for eliminating sales tax loopholes, because “‘a lot of…professional services are exempt from sales tax,’ including all medical, attorneys, [and] accountants,” he said.

Ryan Ferns, in 2017, said, “I think that we could actually do a little more as it pertains to broadening the sales tax base, eliminating some of the loopholes with the exemptions on sales tax.” (Talkline with Hoppy Kercheval, Video - 8:35, 04/17/17)

Ryan Ferns, in 2017, was appointed to the Senate Select Committee on Tax Reform to “consider major tax reform for West Virginia.” He said he hopes that a “plan includes eliminating some sales tax loopholes. For example, ‘a lot of the professional services are exempt from sales tax,’ including all medical, attorneys, accountants and lobbyists, he said. While he hopes some will be taxed, by taxing all of them, the state could bring in $1 billion, he said.” (The Intelligencer,

01/23/17)

 

Ryan Ferns, in 2016, voted to allow “counties to impose a sales tax.”

Ryan Ferns, on March 12, 2016, was one of 28 state senators who voted to pass House Bill 4009, which was a bill to allow “counties to impose a sales tax of up to 1 percent to pay for local road projects – dependent upon Division of Highways approval and majority approval in a local referendum.” (House Bill 4009, 2016, and The Dominion Post, 03/13/16)

 

Ryan Ferns, in 2017, opposed restoring a “surcharge on the wealthy.”

In 2017, a Senate “committee eliminated a previously agreed-to 6 percent rate for income of $250,000 or more, and rejected a motion by Sen. Robert Plymale, D-Wayne, to restore the so-called surcharge on the wealthy. Senate Majority Leader Ryan Ferns, R-Ohio, and Sen. Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, said Senate leadership is unwilling to compromise again on that issue, after getting burned by Senate Democrats and by the House.” (Charleston Gazette-Mail, 05/23/17)

 

Ryan Ferns, in 2015, voted to “increase the Health Care Provider Tax on providers of nursing facility service.”

Ryan Ferns, on March 13, 2015, was part of a unanimous vote to pass Senate Bill 583, which was a bill to temporarily “increase the Health Care Provider Tax on providers of nursing facility service, other than services of intermediate care

facilities for individuals with an intellectual disability, to 5.72 percent, effective for services rendered after June 30, 2015. The bill reduces that tax rate back to 5.5 percent for services rendered after June 30, 2016.” (Senate Bill 583 and

the Senate Bill 583 Fiscal Note, 2015)

 

Ryan Ferns sponsored a bill to tax sports betting in West Virginia.

Ryan Ferns, in January 2018, “introduced Senate Bill 415,” which is “a bill to permit legalized sports betting at West Virginia casinos…subject to federal action.” “The legislation would permit each of West Virginia’s five racetrack casinos – Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack, Mountaineer Casino Racetrack and Resort, the Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races in Ranson, W.Va., and the Mardi Gras Casino & Resort, near Charleston –and the Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs to apply for a license for a sports betting operation. The bill limits the number of sports betting locations in the state to just five.

Also in the bill is language stating that if the bill is approved, it would not become effective unless Congress acts to authorize sports wagering, or the U.S. Supreme Court renders an opinion permitting states to start sports betting games.”

“Under the bill, no local government would be permitted to pass a law to ban sports betting. Casinos applying for a sports betting license would be required to submit a $250,000 application fee, and the initial license would be valid for five years. After this, the casino would be subject to a $100,000 renewal fee. The state would impose and collect a 10 percent fee from the casino’s adjusted gross sports wagering receipts, and this money would go into a West Virginia Sports Wagering Fund created by the legislation.” (The Intelligencer, 01/30/18)

“Senate Majority Leader Ryan Ferns, R-Ohio, the sponsor of the Senate bill, acknowledged concerns about it are valid. ‘While I don’t see this as the end-all-be-all, it will generate revenue for the state,’ he said. ‘It’s going on whether we like it or not. Under this, we would be regulating it, and the state could gain from it.’” (Herald-Star, 02/09/18)

 

Ryan Ferns, in 2017, voted to increase taxes on “wind power projects in the state.”

Ryan Ferns, on March 18, 2017, was one of 25 state senators who voted to pass Senate Bill 16, which was a bill “to repeal a tax cut for wind power projects in the state” by revoking “wind 40 turbines’ classification in the tax code as pollution control facilities.” (Senate Bill 16, 2017, and Charleston Gazette-Mail, 03/19/17)

 

Ryan Ferns, in 2017, voted to allow counties “to hike the local portion of the property transfer tax from $2.20 per $1,000 value to $3.30 per $1,000 value.”

Ryan Ferns, on March 25, 2017, was one of 30 state senators who voted to pass Senate Bill 433, which was a bill to allow counties “to hike the local portion of the property transfer tax from $2.20 per $1,000 value to $3.30 per $1,000 value.” (Senate Bill 433, 2017, and The MorganMessenger, 06/21/17)

 

Ryan Ferns, in 2012, voted to allow “cities to adopt a ‘public safety assessment fee’…based on the square footage of structures.”

Ryan Ferns, on March 10, 2012, was one of 84 state House members who voted to pass Senate Bill 634, which was a bill to allow “cities to adopt a ‘public safety assessment fee’ to help pay down their unfunded police and fire pension liabilities. The fee, which has to be authorized through a local ordinance, is based on the square footage of structures in an amount not to exceed 2 cents per square foot.” (Senate Bill 634, 2012, and The Herald-Dispatch, 03/10/12)

 

Ryan Ferns, in 2017, voted to allow “tolls to be charged on new roads and bridges and on existing roads if they are widened.”

Ryan Ferns “voted in favor of…[a] measure” to give “the West Virginia Parkways Authority the ability to charge tolls after construction of new roads.” (Transportation Monitor Worldwide, 07/24/17)

Ryan Ferns, on June 16, 2017, was one of 21 state senators who voted to pass Senate Bill 1003, which “allows for tolls to be charged on new roads and bridges and on existing roads if they are widened.” (Senate Bill 1003, 2017, and The Herald-Dispatch, 06/22/17)

 

Ryan Ferns, in 2014, voted to allow “municipal water and sewer systems…to pass on rate increases almost immediately” without Public Service Commission (PSC) review.

Ryan Ferns, on March 8, 2014, was one of 74 state House members who voted to pass House Bill 4601, which was a bill to allow “municipal water and sewer systems and public service districts…to pass on rate increases almost immediately” without PSC review, as long as they are not “more than 25 percent higher than existing ones.” (House Bill 4601. 2014, and Charleston

Daily Mail, 03/17/14)

 

Ryan Ferns was a sponsor of legislation that would likely have raised residential electric bills if it passed.

Senate Bill 600, which “would have given electricity rate breaks to corporations and other major utility users” by allowing “the state Public Service Commission to give special lower rates to industrial and manufacturing companies that use a lot of electricity,” died in the state Senate in early 2018.

“In order to qualify for rate relief under the provisions of the bill, the industry or manufacturer would have had to show that ‘the electric energy consumed in the industrial or manufacturing process constitutes or will constitute at least 10 percent of the cost of production, create or retain at least 25 full-time jobs in West Virginia, have invested not less than $500,000 in fixed assets, including machinery and equipment, in West Virginia’ and show that the rate reduction was

necessary for the business to keep operating in the Mountain State, according to the text of the bill.” (WVNews.com, 02/28/18)

“Consumer advocates warned” that this bill “would allow manufacturers to receive a discount on their electric bills at the expense of residential customers.”

“Residents, who have…seen their electric bills climb in recent years, would have to make up the difference in West Virginia’s regulated market, where utilities are guaranteed a profit, consumer advocates…argued.” (Charleston Gazette-Mail, 03/01/18)

If this bill passed residents could have been hit with “‘a significant increase in their electric bills,’” said PSC Consumer Advocate Division head Jacqueline Roberts. (Charleston Gazette-Mail, Editorial, 02/28/18)

“Bill supporters didn’t dispute the likelihood of residential rate hikes, but argued that large-scale electricity users leaving the state due to power costs would also lead to rate hikes for residential ratepayers.” (Charleston Gazette-Mail, 03/01/18)

“Sen. Ryan Ferns, R-Ohio, one of the sponsors of the bill, said SB 600 was needed to keep major manufacturers from moving from West Virginia to states with cheaper utility costs.” (WVNews.com, 02/28/18)

He “said the bill is necessary because it will continue to get harder to retain industrial businesses if electric rates continue to climb.” (Charleston Gazette-Mail, 03/01/18)

 

Ryan Ferns has a long history of opposing tobacco tax increases and smoking regulations. He said a proposed $1 “increase in the cigarette tax” would be “‘an unreasonable burden to place on’” the tobacco industry. Years later, his unsuccessful attempt to kill “a 45-cent per pack increase in the cigarette tax” was described as a “disgusting spectacle under the watchful eyes of tobacco lobbyists.” In fact, “the proposal was so reprehensible, the Republican caucus could not hold together to support it,” so it was withdrawn “in a humiliating defeat.” Ryan Ferns, who also sponsored and pushed legislation to allow county commissions “to overturn indoor smoking bans,” received campaign “contributions from tobacco-related companies.”

In 2011, Health and Human Resources “Committee members…rejected an amendment [to House Bill 2973] by Delegate Ryan Ferns, D-Ohio, to reduce the proposed increase in the cigarette tax from $1 per pack to 40 cents. Ferns said the proposal to nearly triple the…cigarette tax would be ‘an unreasonable burden to place on any industry at one time.’”

“Delegate Bobbie Hatfield, D-Kanawha, a nurse, opposed what Ferns called a compromise amendment. ‘We are being asked to compromise saving 7,000 children from becoming addicted to nicotine,’ she said.” (Charleston Gazette, 02/23/11)

“Sen. Ron Stollings, D-Boone, a physician by trade, called Sen. Ryan Ferns, R-Ohio, ‘the Anti-Health Committee chairman for sponsoring and pushing an unhealthy bill (SB 284) that would allow county commissions to overrule local board of health regulations, ostensibly to overturn indoor smoking bans, particularly for state casinos.” (Charleston Gazette-Mail, Column, 02/21/16)

In 2016, during “an angst-filled debate” over provisions in Senate Bill 1005, Ryan Ferns said “that a hike in tobacco taxes would not curb smoking.” Senate Bill 1005 included “$78 million in revenue increases, mostly from a 45-cent per pack increase in the cigarette tax. The bill would raise the tax rate on smokeless tobacco to 12 percent and, after being amended by Sen. Ron Stollings, D-Boone, in committee, tax e-cigarette fluids at the same rate. Sen. Ryan Ferns, R-Ohio,

chair of the Senate Health Committee, introduced an amendment to eliminate the tax increases on smokeless tobacco and e-cigarette fluids. Ferns said the tax increase would not deter anyone from using the products, which contain harmful nicotine.” (The Register-Herald, 05/18/16)

“Without providing specific studies to support his claim, Ferns, R-Ohio, argued

that the proposed 12 percent increase in wholesale taxes for smokeless tobacco products would have a nominal effect on reducing usage.” (Charleston Gazette-Mail, Column, 05/19/16)

“‘The health benefits of increasing taxes is minimal,’ Ferns said.” He eventually “withdrew his amendment” and voted for the underlying bill to increase cigarette taxes by 45-cent per pack “to raise about $78 million a year.” (Senate Bill 1005, 2016, The Register-Herald, 05/18/16, and Charleston Gazette-Mail, 05/19/16)

Phil Kabler opined, “we witnessed the disgusting spectacle of a Senate Health and Human Resources chairman – Sen. Ryan Ferns, R-Ohio – offering an amendment to gut the tobacco tax bill (SB 1005), under the watchful eyes of tobacco lobbyists, on the pretense the change was necessary to make the bill palatable to House members. The proposal was so reprehensible, the Republican caucus could not hold together to support it, and once Sen. Tom Takubo, R-Kanawha, who deals with tobacco-caused illnesses as a pulmonary physician, said he could not

vote for the measure, Senate leadership had no choice but to withdraw it in a humiliating defeat.” (Charleston Gazette-Mail, Column, 05/22/16)

In June 2016, increases in “the tax on cigarettes” and “other tobacco products,” as well as “a new tax on e-cigarette fluids passed the Senate on a 24-7 bipartisan vote. Ryan Ferns was one of the seven who voted against passage.” (The Register-Herald, 06/12/16)

“Followthemoney.org said three members of the Senate Committee on Health and Human Resources received contributions from tobacco-related companies, including committee chair Ryan Ferns, R-Ohio, who was given $1,000 by Beth M. Prather during the 2014 election cycle.” (The Register-Herald, 12/15/15)

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  • Ty Wheelhouse
    published this page 2018-10-27 08:03:48 -0400
 
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