PARKERSBURG — State and local leaders and manufacturers gathered at the Parkersburg Municipal Building to talk about Amendment 2 on Tuesday.
Rebecca McPhail, president of the West Virginia Manufacturers Association, led the meeting. She said it was time to get out into the community and talk with others about the importance of Amendment 2, the issue of the upcoming general election ballot that would give the Legislative Assembly the ability to reduce or to eliminate six categories of taxes on tangible personal property. McPhail said the association believes in tax reform and the conversation must include property tax on machinery and equipment.
“It’s the tax we pay on our inventory, machinery and equipment, which is frankly out of step not only with the states we directly compete (with) for manufacturing investment, but largely with everything else. from the country”, she says.
McPhail said it was also a chance to repeal the car tax, “which affects everyone in West Virginia, our seniors, our working families, and everyone who drives to and from work,” she says.
McPhail turned the conversation over to Steve Roberts, president of the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce.
“We’ve heard for years and years and years that the way West Virginia taxes, stores and equips is a real disincentive to reinvestment and growth in West Virginia,” he said. “For God’s sake, we need to reinvest and grow in West Virginia.”
Roberts said other states have removed taxes like these from their constitutions because lawmakers need the flexibility to move with the times and some policies aren’t as appropriate as they once were. He said that from time to time the West Virginia Constitution had to be changed, and that it would still require segregation and not allow women to vote if it had not been changed in the past.
Roberts said the amendment does not take revenue away from any of the communities, but sets the stage for a new conversation about taxation.
“And it’s important to note that in 40 of the counties in West Virginia, the equipment and inventory tax is a declining source of revenue, and in 10 of the counties in West Virginia, it’s a source of flat income”, he said.
Delegate Vernon Criss, R-Wood, said this opportunity will allow families and small businesses to have the same opportunities as large corporations.
“We want big business to come – we want to help them keep going because we know that’s where the jobs are going to be,” he said. “We want to inspire people to come back to this county.”
Criss said he would like Amendment 2 to pass so they can have a conversation about tax reform to move into the next era for West Virginia.
Roberts said West Virginia had about 130,000 manufacturing jobs at its peak, compared to about 40,000 today.
“Our industry depends on the ability to invest in innovation and the equipment that allows us to compete in a global economy now,” McPhail said. “I think the Senate has tried to demonstrate in good faith that it is committed to ensuring that our counties, municipalities and schools are fully funded, and more.”
Parkersburg Mayor Tom Joyce said he doesn’t feel at all worried or concerned that the Legislative Assembly intends to bankrupt counties, cities or school boards.
“I think this is a great opportunity for the state of West Virginia, and certainly for our county,” he said.
Vienna Mayor Randy Rapp commented on the tax discussion.
“If the Legislature touches on our house bylaw sales tax, I’ll give you the keys to the city, because that’s $4 million out of an $11 million budget,” he said. “We can’t do it. That’s the problem when you start talking about removing the tax base that you have.
He said there will be no choice but to cut services because they will have to get rid of services to make their budget work.