Commentary By Phil Kabler\r\nFor The West Virginia Press Association\r\n<h1>\r\nAfter 10 days in special session failed to bring the Senate and House of Delegates any closer to resolution of the impasse over the 2017-18 state budget, legislators voted for put the session on hiatus for a second time - until June 5.<\/h1>\r\nThat will leave just 25 days for the House and Senate to break the impasse and pass a state budget before the new budget year starts on July 1. If no budget bill is enacted by then, nonessential government services will have to shut down.\r\n\r\nAfter most legislators went home on the evening of May 24, Gov. Jim Justice had Republican and Democrat leaders in both houses stay behind for a series of closed-door meetings with the various legislative cliques over the next day and a half.\r\n\r\nDeclaring himself as the \u201cmediator-in-chief,\u201d Justice employed his version of shuttle diplomacy, shuttling between the groups of legislators housed in various Capitol building meeting rooms in an attempt to find compromise between glaringly different Senate and House of Delegates\u2019 plans to raise revenue to balance the 2017-18 budget.\r\n\r\n\u201cI want to get this budget deal done, and a mediation session will hopefully help us get there,\u201d Justice said, announcing the meetings with legislators. \u201cWe are all West Virginians and we all want a path forward that will help our people. Rarely has West Virginia had this opportunity in the midst of a terrible crisis; we don\u2019t want to lose this moment.\u201d\r\n\r\nAsked if he was making progress at one point as he shuttled between meetings with Senate Democrats, Senate Republicans, House Democrats and House Republicans, Justice shrugged and commented, \u201cWe\u2019re working, we\u2019re working, we\u2019re trying.\u201d\r\n\r\nWhile the talks did not result in a breakthrough prior to the long Memorial Day weekend, House and Senate leaders were encouraged that all sides are talking.\r\n\r\n\u201cIt\u2019s one of the more productive series of conversations we had with him,\u201d House Speaker Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, said of some two hours of meetings Justice had with House leadership on Thursday.\r\n\r\nA key sticking point has been the widely different proposals by the House and Senate to raise revenue to help close a deficit in the 2017-18 state budget.\r\n\r\nSenate Republicans favor a plan to lower income tax rates by 20 percent over two years, making up some of the lost revenue by raising the state sales tax from 6 percent to 7.25 percent. It\u2019s a plan that Justice has supported, despite bipartisan opposition in the House and, lately, from Senate Democrats.\r\n\r\nCritics contend that the proposal would raise about $147 million to balance the 2017-18 budget - mainly because the sales tax increase would go into effect on July 1, while the income tax reductions wouldn\u2019t start until Jan. 1, 2018 - but would lead to even worse budget shortfalls each year afterward as the income tax cuts increase.\r\n\r\nThe House sent a strong message of opposition Wednesday evening with an 85-0 vote to refuse to concur in the latest version of the Senate plan - a vote that prompted the decision to put the special session on hold to allow time for leadership to try to work with Justice to come up with a compromise.\r\n\r\n\u201cIt\u2019s the huge increase in the sales tax that bothers me the most with what they did,\u201d House Majority Leader Daryl Cowles, R-Morgan, in making the motion to refuse the Senate changes.\r\n\r\nEarlier Wednesday, Senate Democrats also unanimously opposed the plan, which passed the Senate on a mostly party line 18-13 vote, also raising objections in what they called a shift in tax burden from the wealthy to the lower- and middle-class.\r\n\r\n\u201cWe\u2019re going to gamble that we\u2019re going to grow our economy, have these additional resources, and not have a national recession,\u201d said Sen. Mike Romano, D-Harrison, adding, \u201cMy god, if it goes the other way, we\u2019re headed for disaster.\u201d\r\n\r\nRomano said the income tax cuts mirror failed attempts at \u201ctrickle down\u201d economics of the past.\r\n\r\n\u201cGive to the rich, and they\u2019ll create jobs for everyone. It hasn\u2019t worked at the national level, and it won\u2019t work in West Virginia,\u201d he said.\r\n\r\nMeanwhile, the House has favored a more conservative plan to raise revenue, mainly by eliminating some sales tax exemptions in current law, the largest being telecommunications services - mostly cellphone plans - that would raise $60 million a year.\r\n\r\nThe House\u2019s plan would raise about $100 million a year of new revenue, which falls about $150 million short of the total increase needed for Justice\u2019s proposed $4.35 billion budget.\r\nAfter 10 days and an estimated cost of $306,000, the Legislature went on hiatus having passed just one bill in special session, extending a fund used to subsidize Workers\u2019 Compensation premium payments for volunteer fire departments through June 30, 2020 (SB1010).