State News

WV MetroNews

The Voice of West Virginia

Property tax plan collapses. Here’s why.

The effort to phase out the state’s property taxes on machinery, equipment and inventory, and on vehicles has died in the Senate.

Proponents—all Republicans—failed to get the two-thirds vote necessary to advance the resolution to the House. It died on an 18-16 tally, with two Republicans joining the Democrats in opposition.

This was always going to be a heavy lift for a variety of reasons.

First, the approval process was difficult. Property taxes are in the State Constitution so to change that, proponents needed two-thirds majority from both chambers and approval by voters in the next election.

Second, the plan created a potential hole in county budgets. When fully phased in, counties and county school boards that receive the bulk of the property taxes would have lost an estimated $300 million in revenue.

The school systems would be kept whole through the school aid formula, but that money has to come from somewhere. Republicans promised counties would be fully funded by revenue from increases in the tobacco taxes and an increase of one-half of a percent in the sales tax, to six-and-one-half percent.

That only covered two-thirds of the lost revenue. The rest, proponents said, would be made up by natural growth in the state budget and cuts in state spending.

However, county government leaders didn’t buy that. County commissioners and assessors put a lot of pressure on their Senators to oppose the plan, and they were an effective lobbying group.

Third, Republicans focused on the decreases in the business taxes and the personal property tax on vehicles. But remember there were also tax increases. Supporters struggled to make the point that, yes, some taxes would go up, but the hated annual property tax on vehicles would disappear.

Some would go up, some would go down. It got a little confusing.

Fourth, business has benefited from tax changes in recent years—a lowering of the corporate net income tax and elimination of the business franchise tax. Those were appropriate moves, but supporters were often guilty of overselling the benefits to the state’s business climate.

Now, when the state’s economy has slowed primarily because of coal and natural gas, it’s more difficult to argue that business just needs one more tax reduction.

And finally, there were just too many moving parts; an amendment to the State Constitution, some taxes going down, some going up, uncertainty about the revenue projections, a distrust that future legislatures would treat county governments fairly, a fear that other local property taxes would rise to make up the difference.

In the end, it collapsed under its own weight.

But its failure should not change this fact; The property taxes on machinery, equipment and inventory are anti-growth. They are taxes on the value of the property, so businesses have to pay them regardless of whether they make a profit. That’s money businesses could otherwise use to invest in higher wages and new equipment.

The tax is so bad that West Virginia is one of just two states that imposes it. Frequently West Virginia’s Development Office creates a “work around” for new businesses coming to the state so they won’t have to pay the tax.

The vehicle tax is also a burden. It’s an additional expense to vehicle-intensive businesses and to every West Virginian who owns a car or truck. When they buy a vehicle they pay a sales tax, a tax on the gasoline they use, payments for the vehicle itself, insurance, as well as upkeep and maintenance.

And then every year there is a personal property tax bill on the value of the vehicle that must be paid before you can get your license renewed!

Republicans failed to get their plan out of the gate, and there were legitimate questions about the wisdom of their approach. Governor Justice was cool to the idea, so that didn’t help either.

But at least this necessary debate has begun.


The post Property tax plan collapses. Here’s why. appeared first on WV MetroNews.

Source: WV MetroNews

Senate passes pre-existing conditions bill

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia Senate on Tuesday passed a measure ensuring insurance coverage for pre-existing conditions will be maintained even if former President Barack Obama’s health care law is struck down in federal court.

The West Virginia Health Care Continuity Act would prohibit insurance companies from limiting enrollment because of a pre-existing condition. The measure would also require the state insurance commissioner to ensure various aspects of health care are covered, and people could stay on their parents’ insurance plan until they turn 26 years old.

Tuesday’s final vote was 20-14.

The measure comes as West Virginia is part of a multi-state coalition arguing “Obamacare” is unconstitutional. A federal appeals court in December struck down the law’s individual mandate and ordered a federal Texas judge to determine what parts of “Obamacare” are separable from the provision.

A 2018 West Virginia University report notes 719,000 non-elderly West Virginians have a pre-existing condition.

State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has supported the measure as well as West Virginia’s involvement in the lawsuit.

“Passage of the bill will put West Virginia out in front and show the nation how West Virginia unites to ensure that everyone – including those with preexisting conditions – has the ability to purchase health insurance.”

Democratic states and the U.S. House of Representatives have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to consider taking up the matter amid the legal challenge. Justices are expected to continue discussions on the case this Friday.

The final verdict in the legal challenge is expected after this year’s presidential election.

The post Senate passes pre-existing conditions bill appeared first on WV MetroNews.

Source: WV MetroNews

Braxton County locks down defensively to eliminate Hoover, 51-38

Greg Carey/

Herbert Hoover’s Allison Dunbar looks to go off the dribble against Braxton County’s Maggie Skidmore.


GASSAWAY, W.Va. — With a decisive height advantage, it was imperative for Braxton County’s girls basketball team to impose its will on Herbert Hoover in Tuesday’s sectional semifinal.

The Eagles did just that by locking down defensively and riding another strong performance from 6-foot-3 senior Jocelyn Abraham to claim a 51-38 victory against the Huskies in Class AA Region II, Section 2 action.

“We told the girls before the game it would all start with defense,” Eagles’ head coach Keith Greene said. “We had to get out on shooters and play up on them and we did for the most part.”

With the win, Braxton County (17-6) advances to play at Lewis County on Friday in the sectional title game.

Abraham accounted for a pair of baskets in the opening quarter — the only player on either team to make more than one field goal in the period.

The Huskies (16-8) were held without a field goal in the opening quarter as they missed 11 of their attempts and fell behind, 10-2.

“We had four or five solid looks in and out the basket,” Hoover head coach John Vencill II said. “You give us two or three of those and we’re right in the game. We got the shots that we wanted.”

Not until a Taylor Ray three-pointer 1:35 into the second quarter did Herbert Hoover record a field goal. That cut Braxton’s lead to 12-5, but the Eagles responded with a 9-0 run aided by a Peyton Smith triple and back-to-back buckets from Abraham.

Trailing by 16, the Huskies got six straight points from Allison Dunbar to draw to within 23-11 at halftime. Dunbar had eight of Hoover’s 11 points at the break.

A three from Maggie Skidmore and Lacy Liston’s layup allowed the Eagles to take a 15-point lead early in the third, but Hoover answered with an 8-2 surge to pull to within 30-21 at the 3:40 mark.

Skidmore hit two more threes in the period, however, to help send the Eagles into the fourth with a 36-26 advantage.

Liston scored inside twice to start the fourth and give her team a 14-point lead, and Abraham had all nine of her second half points over the final six minutes to put to rest any thought of a Hoover rally.

“We did a better job being patient and working for the open shot,” Greene said. “We were able to get them to come out of their zone late, which we were hoping for. Then Jocelyn was really strong down the stretch.”

Abraham finished with 21 points, 11 rebounds and six assists to lead the way in the win.

“She has height, but she has the skill to go with it too,” Vencill said.

Skidmore made four threes for 12 points, while Liston finished with nine points and a game-best 12 boards. Smith totaled nine rebounds to help Braxton control the glass, 44-35.

The Huskies finished just 11-of-50 for 22 percent shooting from the field.

Dunbar had 19 points and seven rebounds in her final high school game.

“Her freshman year we were 2-21 and here we are finishing 16-8,” Vencill said. “She’s a great player and a great kid.”

The post Braxton County locks down defensively to eliminate Hoover, 51-38 appeared first on WV MetroNews.

Source: WV MetroNews

Steele scores 30 as St. Marys dominates Magnolia, 95-60

ST. MARYS, W.Va. — William Steele connected on eight triples and led all scorers with 30 points as St. Marys cruised past Magnolia, 95-60 on senior night.

The Blue Devils outscored the Blue Eagles 24-9 in the second quarter to take a 45-21 halftime lead and they led by at least 18 points throughout the entire second half.

“William got us started,” said St. Marys head coach Mark Barnhart. “After he got us started, the other guys kind of got in on the act. I thought Richard (Dornan), Peyton (Auxier) and William had a senior night to remember.”

Grant Barnhart scored 16 points and Dornan added 14 points.

In the fourth quarter, senior Leon Taylor appeared in his first varsity game and drained 4 3-pointers in the final five minutes of play. He finished the game with 12 points.

“The fans said it best. They wanted him in with about five and a half minutes to go,” Barnhart said. “He has played for us some on the reserve team. He is a nice young man. He has done everything we have asked here in the program. For him to get to do that in front of a packed gym on senior night, it just put an exclamation mark on it.”

Levi Cecil led Magnolia (15-7) with 19 points and Jacob Gamble added 10. The Blue Eagles secured the top seed in their sectional earlier Tuesday, while the Blue Devils (16-5) were seeded second. St. Marys will host Ritchie County in their postseason opener. But first, they will conclude their regular season Thursday against Madonna.

“That’s a game we know in the first round of sectionals, we have to be ready to play.”

The post Steele scores 30 as St. Marys dominates Magnolia, 95-60 appeared first on WV MetroNews.

Source: WV MetroNews

Sean Biser named new Morgantown football coach

MORGANTOWN – Morgantown High School believes it has found the man to lead its football program back to being a perennial contender in Class AAA, hiring Keyser High School Head Coach Sean Biser.

The Monongalia County Board of Education accepted the recommendation Tuesday night during its weekly meeting.

“We are very excited to welcome Sean Biser to the Mohigan family,” MHS Atheltics Director John Bowers said in a statement.

For the last 16 years, Biser has led a Keyser football team that has been a fixture in the Class AA playoffs. The Golden Tornado only missed the playoffs twice during Biser’s tenure and more often than not, Keyser was playing well into November. Keyser advanced to the quarterfinals eight times and finished runner-up in Class AA in 2012.

“Sean has led Keyser to many Thanksgiving Day practices and has coached on the Island in Wheeling in December. Our Mohigan teams will be disciplined, strong and very well coached under Biser,” said Bowers.

“We look forward to him leading our players and coaches to all be better in their roles to put Mohigan football back on the map.”

Playing and old fashioned, hard-nosed Stick-I style of offense, Keyser dominated opponents in 2019, outscoring the opposition by an average of 40 points per game.

Biser, who was an offensive lineman for WVU from 1990 to 1993, will now lead a Morgantown program that expects to be playing on the final Friday in November every year.

From 1995 to 2013, Morgantown made 19 consecutive playoff appearances, won four state championships (2000, 2002, 2005, 2006) and finished runner-up one other time (1998). The Mohigans also reached the state semifinals eight times during that run.

However, the Mohigans have not won a playoff game since the 2016 season, when it reached the semifinals, losing to eventual state champion Martinsburg. Morgantown reached the playoffs in both 2017 and 2018 but made first round exits and last season finished with a 3-7 record.

Former Head Coach Matt Lacy resigned in November, compiling a 22-23 record in three seasons on the job.

Biser will officially be introduced during a press conference Wednesday afternoon at Morgantown High School.

The post Sean Biser named new Morgantown football coach appeared first on WV MetroNews.

Source: WV MetroNews

Elliott addresses critics, lays out future in Wheeling State of the City speech

WHEELING, W.Va. — Following a 2019 year with plenty of headline news in Wheeling, Mayor Glenn Elliott said there are plenty of opinions on the state of the city. His thoughts are the city is strong and ready for the future.

Elliott laid out his reasons why in a three-tier list on Tuesday at his fourth State of the City address at Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack and made sure to address the critics.

“Are we experiencing a winter of despair or a spring of hope? It depends on who you ask,” Elliott said.


Wheeling Mayor Glenn Elliott

“But because I am standing before you today and happen to have a microphone, I am going to state for the record that I believe the future of our city looks very bright and the state of the city looks very strong.”

In his speech, Elliott laid out the “three legs of the state of the city stool” that included the economy, people who comprise of the city and the collective feelings for the future of Wheeling.

Elliott said the economy around town is strong and the proof is in the tax revenues. He stated that at last week’s city council meeting, City Manager Bob Herron presented a report on the first seven months of the fiscal year, which began July 2019.

“By comparison to the same time last year, we saw a significant increase in revenue from the city’s B&O taxes, sales taxes, and building permit fees,” Elliott said.

READ: Full text of Mayor Elliott’s speech

When addressing the second leg of his “state of the city stool” the feelings of future of the city, he responded to an op-ed written in the Wheeling Intelligencer.

The piece asked the mayor to address the topics of the proposed Public Safety Building, redevelopment of the Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Building and the downtown “streetscape” project.

The construction of a Public Safety Building to house the city’s police and fire departments was one of the most talked-about stories in the past year for the city, along with the status of Wheeling University, Ohio Valley Medical Center closing, the Suspension Bridge closed to vehicular traffic, overhaul of Interstate-70 and a new user fee.

The fee was installed at the beginning of 2020 in part to pay for the $14.5 million safety building, which was voted down in a levy in the 2018 election, and to pay for infrastructure such as roads.

Elliott said the city is waiting on the final results from a full Phase 2 Environmental Site Assessment report on the property at 19th and Jacob Streets, and also see if the city is successful in its request for federal Brownsfield Assistance Center help.

“They cannot discuss Downtown without reminding you how amazing it used to be. They see the closing of OVMC as a harbinger of dark times ahead,” Elliott said of the “pessimists around the city.”

“They decry the condition of our state roads and current traffic detours. And the only thing that seems to bother them more than any of this is the notion of their City government spending their tax dollars to try to fix any of it. If the ship is sinking, after all.”

In further addressing the hot button issues, Elliott told the crowded room at the casino that the “streetscaping” project created five years ago is close to having an announcement of funding in March. Elliott said the project would be the “most significant facelift for downtown Wheeling since 1980.”

He said the work, which would replace sidewalks and streets around downtown as well as add new traffic signals and crosswalks, is now costing around three times more than the $8.7 million announced in 2015 with the idea.

Lastly, when addressing the future of Wheeling, Elliott said the city is waiting on the developer with financing in the Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Building renovation. Officials want to make the skyscraper into market-rate housing, among other small ventures.

Elliott said the city is busy putting together a plan to add a parking structure to the old Chase Bank building that would support the new housing in downtown.

“This would be the largest investment in the history of downtown Wheeling,” he said. “Roughly the same size as the investments of the Health Plan and the Boury Lofts combined.

“It’s very important we do not underestimate what the significance it would be to save the only skyscraper we have in this city with an investment of that size.”

Throughout his 37-minute speech, Elliott honored several citizens of Wheeling. This was part of his final leg in the “state of the city stool,” the people of Wheeling.

Hydie Friend receieved the 4th annual Gateway Award, Wheeling 250 Committee Chairman Jay Frey was honored with the Community Spirit Award, and Elliott honored Dr. Jeannae Finstein, Gail “Boatsie” VanVranken and the late Jim Bordas for their services to the city.

Ron Scott Jr. was honored by Elliott for his work as the Cultural Diversity & Community Outreach Director for the Wheeling YWCA. Elliott spoke highly on the services of the Augusta Levy Learning Center.

Elliott filed for reelection for 2020 and faces tests from businessman Chris Hamm and Tony Domenick. Vice Mayor Chad Thalman is also seeking reelection in his Ward 1 seat.

The post Elliott addresses critics, lays out future in Wheeling State of the City speech appeared first on WV MetroNews.

Source: WV MetroNews

Senate passes Medicaid reserve fund bill

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state Senate quickly considered and passed Gov. Jim Justice’s proposal to take $150 million out of current Medicaid funds to create a trust fund.

Senate Bill 633 passed overwhelmingly, 33-0 with one absence. Senators also suspended constitutional rules requiring bills to be considered on three separate days to quickly dispense with the bill Tuesday.

The bill now goes to the House of Delegates for consideration.

Const. Rule Suspended and Passed – SB633 – Creating Medicaid Families First Reserve Fund account

— WV Senate (@wvsenate) February 25, 2020

But some senators asked if there aren’t immediate needs for that money.

Ron Stollings

Senator Ron Stollings, D-Boone, asked — as he has for weeks — whether the bill does anything to increase the reimbursement rates to medical providers for government insurance. The bill does not.

Stollings, a doctor who is running for governor, has said those reimbursement rates need re-examination as hospitals all over the state struggle financially.

Mike Woelfel

Senator Mike Woelfel, D-Cabell, also asked about immediate needs for the money.

“So no one has reached out from the agencies to you that there’s a need for this money to be matched now for current services?” Woelfel asked.

Senate Finance Chairman Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, said the preference is to hold the money in reserve.

“Quite the opposite. They actually encouraged it,” Blair said.

Then, referring to the possibility of a state revenue downturn, Blair said, “They’re looking at this as a smoothing mechanism for the out years.”

Office of the Governor

Gov. Jim Justice

Gov. Jim Justice’s administration expects to have $309 million more for Medicaid spending than is anticipated to be necessary for the coming year.

They say that’s because the state’s unemployment rate has declined and the population has too, meaning fewer West Virginians qualify for the federal health care program for the poor. Meanwhile, a match of roughly three federal dollars for each dollar the state puts in makes the money go farther.

So Justice and his budget staff have proposed using that pot of Medicaid money in several ways:

First, using some of it to bridge an estimated gap of $108 million in General Revenue for the coming fiscal year.

Second, setting aside $150 million for a Medicaid Families First Reserve Fund. It was described as being like a Rainy Day Fund for the possibility of Medicaid funds running short in future years.

Third, additional spending of almost $50 million on child health and welfare initiatives such as eliminating the waiting list for intellectual and developmental disabilities waivers along with dedicating more money for child protective services.

The post Senate passes Medicaid reserve fund bill appeared first on WV MetroNews.

Source: WV MetroNews

Bible bill heads to Senate after House approval

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A bill that would allow the Bible to be taught as an elective course in West Virginia high schools passed the House of Delegates Tuesday after a debate on whether theology can be separated from the teaching.

The House passed HB 4780 on a 73-26 vote and sent it to the Senate.

Kevan Bartlett

The bill creates a process by which a county board of education may offer three elective social studies courses on the Old Testament, New Testament and on the Hebrew Scriptures/New Testament. The county board would be required to submit the course standards to the state Department of Education.

Tuesday’s debate focused on the question of whether the religious views of the teacher of the course could remain separate from the subject matter.

Bill sponsor, Delegate Kevan Bartlett, R-Kanawha, said he has faith that teachers can look at the Bible and “see the significance of it apart from the theological implications.”

Delegate Mike Pushkin, D-Kanawha, disagreed.

“I just don’t know how anybody could say with a straight face that you can separate theology from the Bible,” Pushkin said.

Mike Pushkin

The bill’s language says the purpose of the course is to:

“Teach students knowledge of biblical content, characters, poetry, and narratives that
are prerequisites to understanding the development of American society and culture, including literature, art, music, oratory, and public policy;”

It also says the courses will “maintain religious neutrality” while “accommodating the diverse religious views, traditions, and perspectives of students in the school.”

Bartlett, himself a pastor, said the elective course would focus on “studying the impact of the Bible.”

Pushkin said there are plenty other appropriate places where the Bible should be taught.

“I think this is something that is deeply personal when you’re talking about one’s religion and how one learns about it and I think that’s exactly why it should be kept in churches, synagogues and masques and at home where parents can teach their children about religion,” Puskin said.

The bill was the subject of a public hearing Monday in the House.

Delegate @KevanBartlett (R-Kanawha) talks with @HoppyKercheval at the Capitol about the Bible bill. WATCH:

— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) February 25, 2020

The post Bible bill heads to Senate after House approval appeared first on WV MetroNews.

Source: WV MetroNews

West Virginia’s abandonment of Sherman and McNeil puzzling


West Virginia is not just a poor three-point shooting team. It is a terrible three-point shooting team.

This is not news, as the Mountaineers sit 335th nationally with a 28.9 three-point percentage. So it is understandable that Bob Huggins would not design his offense around the concept of making threes. To do so would be folly.

Yet even with that being common knowledge, Huggins’ refusal to have West Virginia let it launch in the face of a three-score deficit late in the second half of Monday night’s 67-57 loss at Texas remains puzzling.

On the rare occasion that a West Virginia shooter finds himself on a hot streak this season, Huggins should feel an obligation to feed that player until the wave finally hits the beach.

He had such a player on Monday night.

Sean McNeil was a perfect 3-for-3 from three-point range in the first half… and then never took another for the rest of the game, even with the Mountaineers needing to make up ground quickly. That’s half as many threes as McNeil took at TCU, when he didn’t make any of them.

Huggins’ postgame explanation did not hold water.

“We couldn’t get a good one off,” Huggins said in his postgame radio interview. “When they press up on you and you can’t drive it by them, what are you going to do? We ran stuff that we’ve always gotten shots off of. We didn’t do a very good job screening.”

He probably isn’t lying about the quality of screens. But even if shooters were provided with perfect screens, the Mountaineers frequently didn’t have the right personnel on the floor to take advantage of the situation.

Taz Sherman, far and away this team’s best outside shooting threat, did not play for the final 15:20. Sherman was pulled for the final sin of committing a double-dribble just a couple minutes after he drove into the lane for an ill-advised underhand layup attempt that hit the bottom of the rim. It was one of just two shots for Sherman in the game.

Sherman should be shooting, not driving, and maybe that was Huggins’ message here. But it also isn’t surprising that a scorer would get out of his element when the team’s point guards can’t be reliably counted on to penetrate and kick back out to the shooters.

With Sherman out, Huggins at least recognized McNeil needed to be on the floor in his place. But absolutely nothing was set up for him, defying any rational explanation.

McNeil took a total of two shots in the second half, both on the same possession. After missing a jumper, he alertly followed the shot, cutting to the hoop for Jermaine Haley to hit him with a beautiful bounce pass after grabbing the offensive rebound.

Then for the last 10:04 of the game, West Virginia’s hottest shooter in Austin got nothing.

Inexplicable, and given the score, inexcusable.

Neither McNeil nor Sherman were on the floor for the final 4:04 as Huggins went with what looked to be a more defensive lineup in an attempt to press Texas.

Perhaps the right idea, but with a major Achilles heel — there wasn’t anyone on the floor capable of making shots that would allow the Mountaineers to actually set up the press. And whatever defensive advantage the lineup of Chase Harler, Jermaine Haley, Emmitt Matthews, Gabe Osabuohien and Derek Culver had to offer was forfeited on the possession where West Virginia allowed two offensive rebounds just before the shot clock expired before Texas finally scored to go up 61-52.

West Virginia never got within seven points of the lead, only attempting two three-pointers down the stretch.

One of them was put up by Emmitt Matthews, who is shooting 19 percent from three-point range in Big 12 play. The other was heaved up by Jermaine Haley with 47 seconds left as West Virginia faced a 10-point deficit.

Following the game, Huggins shared the same complaint that he did following West Virginia’s loss to Oklahoma that began the Mountaineers’ current tailspin.

“We’re not the same team,” Huggins lamented. “Different dudes, man. They’re not the same guys.”

Maybe so.

But for a team that has struggled shooting the ball like West Virginia has, Huggins seemingly could have done more to make sure the right dudes were on the court and had the ball in their hands, ready to fire.

The post West Virginia’s abandonment of Sherman and McNeil puzzling appeared first on WV MetroNews.

Source: WV MetroNews

Tax overhaul resolution falls short in state Senate

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — After weeks of discussion and two hours of floor debate, there was not enough support in the state Senate to pass a resolution allowing citizens to vote on a constitutional amendment allowing the property tax changes.

The vote was 18-16, but the resolution required a two-thirds majority.

“This Republican tax scheme does nothing but cut taxes for out of state corporations while increasing taxes for our citizens,” stated Senator Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, leader of the Democratic caucus that lined up against the resolution.

“We could not in good conscience vote for an amendment to our Constitution that would have left the people with little say in how, what or who will be taxed in West Virginia.”

Senate Dems on tax resolution defeat

— Brad McElhinny (@BradMcElhinny) February 25, 2020

The tax overhaul package was represented by two pieces of legislation.

One, Senate Joint Resolution 9, was to allow the constitutional flexibility to cut the property taxes.

Passing a resolution leading to a constitutional amendment requires a two-thirds majority vote. With 20 Republicans and 14 Democrats in the House, that would require 23 senators to vote for the resolution.

An amendment would be subject to a vote of West Virginia’s citizens.

Charles Trump

Republicans made that vote the thrust of their message on Tuesday. They urged their fellow senators to give citizens a chance to vote on an amendment.

“We have to trust the people of West Virginia,” said Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Trump, R-Morgan, when introducing the resolution.

A companion bill. Senate Bill 837, is meant to actually change the tax code if the amendment were to pass. That bill narrowly passed, 17-16, after more than two hours of debate on Monday.

Paul Hardesty

The tax cut proposal has been under discussion for months, with skeptics asking how the money would be made up to county governments and school systems that depend on property taxes.

“I believe my county will be severely impaired by the passage of this resolution. I just don’t see any way of avoiding that,” said Senator Paul Hardesty, D-Logan.

Supporters were aiming to boost manufacturing investment in West Virginia by cutting inventory and machinery taxes for companies. Inventory taxes on retailers would also be cut under the proposal.

Eric Tarr

“This is a bill to help families in West Virginia. It’s also a bill to bring jobs to West Virginia,” said Senator Eric Tarr, R-Putnam.

Perhaps as a sweetener for average citizens, the proposal would cut personal property taxes on vehicles.

That all would have added up to a $300 million, six-year phase-out.

To make up for that, lawmakers had proposed  increasing sales taxes by a half-penny and boosting taxes on tobacco products.

That would have returned about $200 million.

The rest was meant to be made up through growth — and by the tax increases being active and flowing into a fund prior to the full phase-out of the other taxes.

To the skeptics, that didn’t add up.

Richard Lindsay

“What was discussed is a tax benefit for big business on the backs of West Virginians,” said Senator Richard Lindsay, D-Kanawha.

Less formal debate over the resolution went on all day in the hallways of the Capitol.

Just prior to the vote, Senate President Mitch Carmichael and fellow Republicans huddled with state media to make one final pitch that the resolution represents a way to take the tax issue directly to the citizens.

Carmichael and others on property tax amendment vote

— Brad McElhinny (@BradMcElhinny) February 25, 2020

Craig Blair

Earlier, Senate Finance Chairman Craig Blair and Prezioso, the leader of the Democrats, sat side by side on MetroNews’ “Talkline” to discuss the resolution and tax overhaul.

Blair, like others, emphasized giving citizens a chance to vote on an amendment.

“The voters get to decide,” said Blair, R-Berkeley.

“They get to decide whether taxpayers, the voters of West Virginia, whether they like Senate Bill 837 or not. If we don’t pass this out today, the House of Delegates never gets to see this either.”

Roman Prezioso

Prezioso said his concern is sales tax increases to make up for property tax reductions for manufacturers.

“We don’t see this bill putting West Virginians first,” Prezioso said.

“The question is, how do you backfill those taxes? You’re putting the burden back on citizens rather than giving them relief.”

Senate Finance Committee Chairman @CraigPBlair (R-Berkeley) and Senate Minority Leader @romanprezioso (D-Marion) join @HoppyKercheval at the Capitol to weigh in on the property tax debate. WATCH:

— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) February 25, 2020

Rebecca McPhail

Rebecca McPhail, president of the West Virginia Manufacturers Association, also appeared on “Talkline.”

She said the legislation would increase greater investment in manufacturing in West Virginia.

“We’ve been doing the same thing in West Virginia for a long time. We’re clearly an outlier,” McPhail said.

“We’re the region’s biggest loser when it comes to manufacturing jobs. We’re the only state that’s lost them in our region. That’s discouraging.”

She said the legislation could provide relief for the expenses that modern manufacturers face for investing in equipment.

“The things that are making manufacturing jobs better are the things that are making the industry very expensive,” McPhail said.

After the resolution was rejected, the manufacturers association put out a statement of disappointment.

“Today’s vote by the West Virginia Senate, largely on party lines, robbed West Virginia voters of the opportunity to have the final say in whether that tax reform should happen,” McPhail stated.

.@BexMcPhail, President of the West Virginia Manufacturers Association, talks with @HoppyKercheval at the Capitol about the property tax debate. WATCH:

— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) February 25, 2020

The post Tax overhaul resolution falls short in state Senate appeared first on WV MetroNews.

Source: WV MetroNews