Finally, back from vacation, auto dealers lobbyist Ruth Lemmon called to say a final-hours amendment inserted to the Marcellus Gas and Manufacturers Development Act that created a $100 million tax break for buyers of alternative fuel and flex-fuel vehicles was not her doing.
Lemmon said she didn't think anything of the bill or the amendment until some time after its passage, when she started getting calls from accountants who had been apprised of the tax credit during some sort of conference or meeting.
"Accountants were the ones who found it," she said of the credit, worth up to $7,500 against personal income taxes.
Lemmon said she did oppose repealing the credit retroactively to Dec. 31, 2012, saying she thought it bad public policy for the Legislature to act retroactively.
(However, the Legislature does it frequently with pay raises, including a 2008 increase in their own per-diem payments that was retroactive to the start of the session, and this year's pay raise for magistrates in small-population counties that was retroactive to Jan. 1.)
The failure to make the tax-credit repeal retroactive contributed to the last-minute surge of flex-fuel vehicle purchases prior to the publicized April 14 repeal date.
Regarding last week's item that legislators attending out-of-state conferences (such as this month's National Conference of State Legislatures' Legislative Summit in Atlanta) should be required to submit reports summarizing what they'd learned at the meetings, Delegate Gary Howell, R-Mineral, told me when he goes to conferences, he makes a point to attend every meeting he can.
While some legislators are equally diligent, Howell said it burns him up to go to these conferences and see certain colleagues only at receptions and social events. (He didn't name names.)
Finally, speaking of legislative travel, studying North Dakota's Future Fund as a possible model for West Virginia re: any tax windfalls from Marcellus Shale drilling is certainly a worthwhile endeavor.
However, did we really need to send 19 legislators to Bismarck for a one-day briefing on how the fund works? Wouldn't it have been easier (and cheaper) to fly three or four representatives of the Fund here?
Reach Phil Kabler at ph...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.