CHARLESTON- Local state lawmakers are supportive of the idea of forming an independent analysis office to determine the economic effects of future legislation being discussed in Charleston.
State lawmakers met last week as part of a finance subcommittee to look at the possibility of creating an analysis office, which would look at how legislation would impact the state, its economy and how such requirements would be funded.
Lawmakers now only have one guide to gauge the financial impact of a bill - the fiscal note. These analyses are usually prepared by state agencies and tell lawmakers only whether a bill would increase costs or revenue for the state.
Legislators have said the fiscal note could be influenced by the governor's administration or by someone with a state agency that could be impacted by a piece of legislation.
Delegate Bill Anderson, R-Wood, said if an agency was in favor of something, the Legislature would get a favorable fiscal note with reasonable cost estimates. If the agency didn't like what the Legislature was considering, the fiscal note might have a "sky high" projected cost.
Anderson said he would like to have an independent body that would act like the federal General Accounting Office, which would be non-partisan and provide information on the intended and unintended costs of legislation. This would allow lawmakers to better understand the impacts of legislation being considered.
"We need objective analysis," he said. "I would be supportive of that."
Anderson said he has generally been against increasing the size of government, but said such an office could provide information lawmakers would need to make sound decisions and give the citizens of West Virginia the kind of legislation they deserve.
"I think it would be a good investment to make," he said.
Recent studies by the Legislative Auditor's office showed that 69 percent of fiscal notes prepared in 2008 and 84 percent of those prepared in 2007 were overestimated. Only 13 percent of the fiscal notes prepared in both years had estimates within 10 percent of actual results.
Sen. David Nohe, R-Wood, said such an office could look at how certain legislative measures would be able to be financed.
"Something like that would be important to Wood County," he said. "I think (this office) is something that should be looked at."
Nohe said lawmakers try to look at the financial impacts of bills, but sometimes they need something more.
"This would take the politics out of it," Nohe said. "It would put everyone on a level playing field.
"I am all for that."
Delegate John Ellem, R-Wood, said the analysis office would be a good idea if it can be kept independent, non-partisan and have full audit power.
Such an office could provide what the cost of legislation and its impact would be on citizens and businesses, he said.
The fiscal note provided to legislators is a often more of a general estimate of costs.
"An independent office could provide more in-depth information," Ellem said.
Such an office could let lawmakers know if a bill would create an unfunded liability that might have to be picked up by a city, school board or other entity, he said.
The idea has been bounced around for several years with questions of its independence and equality brought up.
"I think it would provide us more information and provide us more tools in considering legislation," Ellem said.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.