2018 WV Legislative Session now underway, local lawmakers outline goals

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WTAP) - The 2018 legislative session in West Virginia is underway, which means lawmakers are ready to get to work.

During the last few years, budget talks have gone into special sessions but this year, legislators are optimistic.

"From what we understand the budget process should be a lot smoother this year and the anticipation is to pass the budget within the 60 day session," Del. Vernon Criss (R - Wood County, District 10).

That optimism was shared among several politicians as they outlined their aspirations for the session.

"We are hoping to increase the atmosphere for more jobs to work on legislation for the oil and gas exploration storage," Del. Ray Hollen (R, Wirt County, District 9).

"One of the things I'm really excited about is getting rid of the personal property tax and the inventory tax. These are just two big walls that prevent companies from coming into West Virginia and from businesses prospering," Sen. Mike Azinger (R- Wood County, District 3).

Senator Donna Boley, (R - Pleasants County, District 3) said one of the issues that will be prioritized is the short staffing at the state's regional jails and prisons.

"I can almost guarantee you that there'll be a good raise for those correctional officers," she said.

"They make something like $23,000 or $24,000 a year now. I've heard that they might over a period of three years come up to about $30,000."

This year, the legislature is controlled by Republicans and Governor Justice is also Republican. Local legislators weighed in on how that will affect this year's session.

"It doesn't necessarily mean everyone's going to be in a Kumbaya moment but better responsibility and better relations seem to be in order," Del. Criss said.

"I think that the Senate and the House will have a good relationship this year. We have a Republican governor and I think he'll be on board with a lot of our ideas this year," Sen. Azinger said.

"I think we've been working good with the Democrats in the last few months and I think that will continue," Sen. Boley said.

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