W.Va. Amendment Two issue still a significant subject of debate

WTAP News @ 11 - W.Va. Amendment Two issue still a significant subject of debate
Published: Oct. 26, 2022 at 7:17 PM EDT
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PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (WTAP) - Amendment Two – or the personal property tax modernization amendment – is on the ballot.

If passed the issue would give the West Virginia legislature the ability to reduce or eliminate six categories of tangible personal property taxes.

Some of these include: machinery and equipment, furniture and fixtures and motor vehicles.

Wood County Commissioner Jimmy Colombo is against the amendment saying that it would complicate the way everything is managed.

Colombo says, “Personally, for me, if I had a problem with my property why would I want to go to Charleston and talk to somebody on the legislature about the value of my property? When I could go right down to this courthouse and go face-to-face with the assessor and the county commission and say, ‘Why are you doing this? Why can this not be fixed the right way?’”

West Virginia Chamber of Commerce Policy and Advocacy supports the amendment.

The agency’s vice president, Brian Dayton says that the current way property taxes are done is “regressive.”

“We are the only state in the nation that has these taxes enshrined in our Constitution,” says Dayton. “So, any other state can make changes to these taxes. We cannot without Amendment Two. These taxes that are enshrined are some of the most regressive taxes that we find.”

Dayton also says that the legislature is prepared for this amendment to pass, as it is saving up for this for the last few years.

“For the past four years, West Virginia has maintained a flat budget. And each year of general revenue growth is about $150 million. So, after four years – that means annually – the state is collecting 600 million more than what it needs. And that’s the money that was built up in anticipation of this amendment so that this shift could be made,” says Dayton.

Dayton also says Ohio is seeing success from this same move.

“Well, we can point to next door in Ohio,” says Dayton. “Ohio was in a nosedive on their manufacturing jobs in the early 2000′s. In 2005, the Ohio legislature began a four-year phase out of their tangible personal property taxes on equipment and inventory and that phase out was completed by 2009. Since that time, Ohio has added over 70 thousand manufacturing jobs and wages have gone up. West Virginia during that same time period we’ve lost two thousand.”

Colombo says that the tax break is not concrete after a conversation with other officials.

“They’re dangling that,” says Colombo. “I talked to a senator when the governor was in town and he said, ‘Well, we gave you all that information.’ I said, ‘No you didn’t. You haven’t given us one piece of paper on how you’re going to fill in the gaps or what your intentions are. Nor have you voted on it.’ Well, he said, ‘That’s right.’ Then I said, ‘How can you promise people those taxes without showing them how they’re going to do it and what you’re going to replace it with?’”

Colombo also says that this amendment could have a negative impact on funding for local government and first responders.

“On a lot of these budgets – the way I read it – if we put the budget in and we need a couple extra police cars, we have to ask Charleston for permission to buy those police cars,” says Colombo. “Yet, if that’s the case, if somebody in Jefferson County were to ask for two police cars, then it becomes very political. Who will get the right if they have more political power down in Charleston, they’ll get the cars, and we won’t.”

For more information on Amendment Two, you can click on this link for our previous coverage on this issue. And the full article in its current form.