HUNTINGTON – In joining Gov. Joe Manchin today as he signed new legislation that will give a tax break to parents of children with autism, House Speaker Richard Thompson and Delegate Mark Hunt expressed gratitude that lawmakers were able to come to agreement on the measure during special session.
“The House of Delegates adopted this bill during the regular legislative session, but it got lost in the shuffle during the hectic final hours,” Speaker Thompson observed. “We are thankful that the governor was willing to place this important initiative on the subsequent special session call and that the Legislature adopted it.”
Delegate Mark Hunt, D-Kanawha, the lead sponsor of the bill, said the legislation provides a much-needed mechanism to help parents of children afflicted with this neurological disorder save money.
“Autism in West Virginia is an epidemic,” the delegate said. “One in 94 children born in West Virginia are diagnosed with autism. State health officials estimate that this year, 300 children will be born with autism. We have a real problem.”
Speaker Thompson and Delegate Hunt were by Gov. Manchin’s side today, along with representatives of the West Virginia Autism Training Center, when he signed SB 1009 during a ceremony at Marshall University.
The legislation provides for a tax deduction equal to the amount of contribution to trusts created to support children with autism. The maximum deduction allowable is $1,000 per year for individual filers and persons who are married but filing separately, and $2,000 per year for persons who are married and filing jointly. The deduction may be carried forward for up to four years.
The bill provides that any parent or guardian of a child with autism may establish a trust account for the future support of a child with autism at a national or state bank, or a trust company that meets certain criteria. There will be a new West Virginia Children with Autism Trust Board to qualify and oversee the trust accounts, which may be created and the deduction taken beginning in tax year 2011.
“This is a baby step to give parents an additional incentive to save for their child’s future, to use their own money rather than have to rely entirely on Medicaid,” Delegate Hunt said. “That means a lot.”
And Speaker Thompson noted that as a result, children with autism could be less reliant on state tax dollars for support.
“Parents are struggling to provide a future for these special children and to provide them some independence down the road,” Thompson said. “We’re pleased to be the first state in the country to offer parents of children with autism this type of assistance, and in turn benefit all West Virginia taxpayers.”
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