Tax break OK’d for some West Virginia Turnpike users

| 9/5/2007

The West Virginia Legislature has approved a bill that would provide a tax deduction for some frequent travelers on the state’s turnpike. There are concerns it could lead to toll increases down the road.

The House and Senate voted unanimously to forward a bill to Gov. Joe Manchin that would allow West Virginia residents to subtract up to $1,200 from their gross adjusted income for money spent on E-ZPass commuter passes on the West Virginia Turnpike. Commercial drivers would not be eligible for the tax break.

Senate Minority Leader Don Caruth, R-Mercer, said he reluctantly voted to approve the bill – SB2001 – during a special session last month. He said he doesn’t think enough residents in the state will benefit from the tax deduction, The Associated Press reported.

Advocates for the plan said logistics of verifying and tabulating toll receipts made it impractical to apply the tax break to all users of the 88-mile route that stretches between Charleston and Princeton. They also said it would lead to severe backups at the toll plazas if many users were requesting receipts.

Caruth said he also is leery the tax break is a way to appease one group of motorists to make them less resistant to a rate increase.

Greg Barr, general manager of the state Parkways, Economic Development and Tourism Authority said the tax break doesn’t equate to an imminent rate increase, The AP reported.

Barr also pointed out that before a toll increase could be enacted, public notice and public hearings are required in each county bordering the road. The state also would need to complete traffic and engineering studies to justify the proposed increase.

To view other legislative activities of interest for West Virginia in 2007, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor