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Swartzmiller Seeks Elimination of Social Security Tax Caps

WHEELING — Delegate Randy Swartzmiller thinks the upcoming special legislative session on education betterment also would be an opportune time to re-examine legislation eliminating taxes on Social Security benefits for West Virginians.

Swartzmiller, D-Hancock, wants to eliminate the wage caps placed on the measure before its passage during the last hours of the regular session earlier this year. As the bill signed into law is currently written, individuals earning more than $50,000 and couples with household earnings of $100,000 would not get the tax benefit.

House members return Monday to Charleston for the special session, with the governor publicly saying he is not optimistic education reform policies will result from the effort.

“Those are his words. He doesn’t expect it to go well,” said Swartzmiller, D-Hancock. “He seems to have a negative view of how session will go, and I’m just throwing out what I see as a positive.”

Swartzmiller believes successful work to amend House Bill 2001 — the Social Security taxation bill passed during the regular session — could provide an otherwise noteworthy accomplishment during the session if nothing else is achieved. He has sent a letter to Justice asking him to place it on the call, hoping work on the legislation would justify the effort and price of the special session.

When both the Senate and the House are in special session, the meeting costs West Virginia taxpayers more than $30,000 a day.

“I am respectfully requesting that you expand your legislative agenda in the upcoming special session to include all West Virginia seniors regardless of household income … in the elimination of the West Virginia Social Security tax,” Swartzmiller wrote in his letter to Justice.

“I do not believe we should be picking winners and losers when it comes to our seniors. They all have paid taxes their entire lives and they deserve to be exempted from further state taxation on their Social Security.”

Any changes should be enacted before June 30, the end of the current fiscal year, to assure all seniors are included in the upcoming fiscal year tax exemption, Swartzmiller said.

Swartzmiller said the original bill allocated $50 million to eliminating taxation on Social Security, but $40 million was taken from the legislation when the Senate added the wage caps to the bill.

“There are some people who have the mind set if you’re making $100,000 a year, you’re making a lot of money,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean one spouse still could be working and making $65,000 a year, and the other could be making $35,000 in retirement to hit the threshold.

“People shouldn’t be penalized because they did well during their career.”

In addition, there are more grandparents in the state raising their children than ever before, according to Swartzmiller.

“They didn’t plan on this when they retired, and every little bit we can do to let them keep money in their pocket helps them. Let’s do the right thing. It’s a no-brainer,” he said.

“We’re coming to town for education, and hopefully we can craft something to benefit kids. But while we are there … we have something to work out that we can achieve consensus on — something we can work on if the education bill doesn’t work out. At least we could say we got something done for seniors.”

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