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A successful special session

November 17, 2006

Not everyone was pleased with the results of recent elections, but it would be tough to find someone who isn't happy with the results of the West Virginia Legislature's special session on taxation that ended on Tuesday.

Lawmakers in both houses of the state Legislature passed a package of bills that will, among other things, reduce the state's debt by $1 billion.

The package will also cut personal income taxes for those whose income falls below the federal poverty level, cut a number of business taxes, including business franchise and corporate income taxes and begin the phase-out of sales tax on food.

In 2005, Don Blankenship, chairman of Massey Energy, called for an immediate end to the food tax, but the legislature resisted, in part because it was dropped in the 1980s, only to be reinstated later when revenues fell short.

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The phase-out that begins in 2008 might not please Blankenship, but it passed muster with the state's chamber of commerce.

Steve Roberts, the chamber's president, told The Associated Press that lawmakers' challenge is to keep the state competing for new business "without crippling our ability to educate our citizens and to build infrastructure, including roads and highways."

If cutting taxes and keeping business happy adds up to victory, lawmakers can put this session in the "win" column.

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