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Tomblin vetoes tax deduction for DNR pensions

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin vetoed four bills from the 2013 legislative session late Friday night, including one that would have allowed retired Division of Natural Resources police officers to deduct their pensions from their personal income taxes.

The governor said he vetoed that bill (SB65) because of concerns the special tax break would set a precedent for other public employees.

"I have serious concerns about providing disparate tax treatment to a very narrow class of retirees within [the Public Employees Retirement System]," Tomblin stated in his veto message. "Moreover, the bill creates a risk that the class will be expanded through litigation to include other retirees within PERS seeking the same treatment."

According to state Tax Department estimates, about 90 retirees would have been eligible for the tax write-off, reducing their income tax payments by about $160,000 a year.

Tomblin also vetoed a bill (SB331) that would have allowed the state Courthouse Facilities Improvement Authority to issue bonds to help fund upgrades and expansion projects at the state's 55 county courthouses.

The governor applauded the "general intent of the bill to provide additional funding for our aging courthouses," but said he was concerned about the authority having to commit all of its annual revenue from fees to pay off the 30-year bond issue.

The authority currently receives about $2 million a year from fees on various courthouse activities, including obtaining marriage licenses or concealed weapons permits, and for filing civil suits.

"Absent any additional appropriations from the Legislature, I believe the potential long-term funding issues facing the authority outweigh the positive attributes of this bill," Tomblin stated in his veto message.

Tomblin also vetoed two bills because of technical errors within the measures.

One of those (HB2738) would have doubled the amount of funding the state Center on Nursing dedicates to student loans and scholarships. Tomblin said he vetoed the bill because it violated a constitutional provision that says a bill may address only one issue.

The Senate Education Committee amended the bill by inserting the provisions of another bill (SB648), which would have authorized the Higher Education Policy Commission to provide forgivable loans to health sciences students who agree to work in underserved areas of the state after graduation.

Also vetoed for technical errors was a bill (SB21) that would have required employees of health-care providers to wear identification badges. The bill cited the wrong section of state code.

Tomblin had until midnight Saturday to act on the 216 bills passed during the 2013 regular legislative session. The governor signed all other bills into law, and also signed all five bills passed during a two-day special session April 17 and 18.

Those included bills to give pay raises to magistrates and staff from smaller counties (SB1003) and to authorize a sales tax increment financing district for a major economic development project outside of Morgantown (SB2001).

Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.


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