PARKERSburg — State and local leaders and manufacturers gathered at the Parkersburg Municipal Building on Tuesday to discuss Amendment 2.
West Virginia Manufacturers Association President Rebecca McPhail moderated the meeting. She said it’s time to get out of the community and talk to others about the importance of the 2nd Amendment, which is an issue on the upcoming general election ballot, which would give the legislature the ability to reduce or eliminate six categories of tangible personal property taxes. McPhail said the association believed in tax reform and the conversation needed to include a property tax on machinery and equipment.
“It’s the tax we pay for our inventory, machinery and equipment, and quite frankly, it’s not only in direct competition with (competing with) states for manufacturing investment, but it’s largely out of step with the rest of the country,” he said. she says.
McPhail said it was also an opportunity to repeal the vehicle tax, “This affects every West Virginian, our seniors, our working families, and anyone who drives to and from get off work,” she says.
McPhail turned the conversation over to West Virginia Chamber of Commerce President Steve Roberts.
“We’ve been hearing for years that the way West Virginia’s taxes, inventory and equipment are really not conducive to reinvestment and growth in West Virginia,” He says. “For God’s sake, we need to reinvest and grow in West Virginia.”
Roberts said other states have left such taxes out of their constitutions because lawmakers need flexibility to move with the times, and some policies are not as appropriate as they once were. He said the West Virginia constitution needs to be amended from time to time, and if it hasn’t been amended in the past, it still needs to be segregated and doesn’t allow women to vote.
Roberts said the amendment would not deprive any community of income, but set the stage for a new conversation about taxation.
“This is important because in 40 West Virginia counties, equipment and inventory tax is a declining revenue stream, while in 10 West Virginia counties it is a flat revenue stream,” He says.
R-Wood representative Vernon Criss said the opportunity would give homes and small businesses the same opportunities as larger businesses.
“We want bigger businesses to come – we want to help them continue to grow because we know that’s where the work is,” He says. “We want to attract people back to the county.”
Chris said he wants to pass the 2nd Amendment so they can have a conversation about tax reform to move into the next era of West Virginia.
There were about 130,000 manufacturing jobs in West Virginia at its peak and about 40,000 today, Roberts said.
“Our industry depends on the ability to invest in innovation and equipment that allows us to compete in the global economy,” McPhail said. “I think the Senate is trying to show in good faith that they are committed to making sure our counties, cities and schools are adequately funded and then some.”
Parkersburg Mayor Tom Joyce said he was not at all concerned, or concerned, by any intention of the legislature to bankrupt the county, city or board of education.
“I think it’s a huge opportunity for West Virginia and certainly for our county,” He says.
Vienna Mayor Randy Rapp commented on the tax discussion.
“If the Legislature touches our self-governing sales tax, I’ll give you the keys to the city, because that’s $4 million out of an $11 million budget,” He says. “We can’t. That’s the problem when you start talking about removing the tax base you have.”
He said there was no choice but to cut services because they had to get rid of them to make the budget work.