UPDATE: Huntington City Council Votes to Repeal Occupation Tax

By: WSAZ News Staff; Andrew Colegrove Email
By: WSAZ News Staff; Andrew Colegrove Email

UPDATE 3/11/13 @ 11:15 p.m.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A controversial 1 percent occupation tax is officially off the table in Huntington.

City Council voted Monday night to repeal the tax. It would have affected all employees who work within city limits.

The council approved the tax in 2011 to replace the city's user fee. It was part of a tax reform package stemming from Huntington's participation in the state's home rule experiment, which gives more power to municipalities.

A lawsuit challenging the tax's legality is pending in Kanawha County Circuit Court.

Plaintiffs include Steel of West Virginia and Cabell County Commissioner Bob Bailey. An injunction issued in the case blocked the tax from going into effect

Council members say it has been a long road, and this is a major step in the right direction.

"It's extremely important for the city to go ahead and repeal this so that we can move ahead with the rest of our tax options," Councilman David Ball said. "Anytime you can lower taxes for businesses in the community, it can only help bring more business to the community."

UPDATE 2/25/13 @ 10 p.m.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- It now looks like a controversial tax in Huntington will never go into effect.

Monday night Huntington City Council approved the first reading of an ordinance to rescind the 1 percent occupation tax.

"The fact of the matter is this is something that was getting in the way of progress within the city," Huntington Mayor Steve Williams said.

After the occupation tax was adopted in May of 2011, Steel of West Virginia and several other parties claimed the tax was unconstitutional and filed a lawsuit against the city.

Mayor Williams says that lawsuit is nearly settled, and opposing council has backed off a request for the city to pay the plaintiff's legal fees.

The mayor also hopes killing the tax will help persuade the legislature to extend the city's home rule legislation.

"What we want to do, particularly with our legislators from all over the state, is let them know the occupation tax is dead," Williams said.

Council will have a second reading of the ordinance at their next meeting.

UPDATE 1/14/13 @ 11:20 p.m.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The issue of Huntington's occupation tax isn't going away anytime soon.

Mayor Steve Williams says he would throw aside the occupation tax issue right away if he could. But the pending lawsuit against the city -- filled by a number of businesses and individuals -- must be resolved first.

Williams said the plaintiffs also want the city to pick up their legal tab.

At Monday night's Huntington City Council meeting, council members postponed a rezoning issue for a proposed apartment building and Zumba studio along 2nd Street West.

UPDATE 10/3/12 @ 8 p.m.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- From heated city council meetings all the way to the state legislature before finally landing in court -- Huntington's occupation tax proposal generated a lot of controversy.

While both sides fought passionately for and against the tax, in the end the fate rested solely with a judge in Kanawha County. That hearing took place one year ago this week, and a decision still hasn't been made.

The judge not making a decision actually made a decision -- it killed this issue.

No matter who you ask, Huntington's proposal for the 1 percent occupation tax on all city employees generated strong feelings.

“It's ridiculous and not fair,” said a person who worked in Huntington.

The city of Huntington took advantage of a three-year pilot program approved by the state legislature called home rule. That allowed municipalities to get creative with how they improved their economy.

One of the things Huntington chose to do was create a new tax structure. Part of that proposal included a 1 percent occupation tax on everyone who worked in the city.

“Nothing good ever comes without a fight, and we still feel it's the most equitable way for the city to progress,” Huntington Mayor Kim Wolfe said.

The State Home Rule Board signed off on the plan. Then several groups in Huntington, including the Cabell County Commission and Steel of West Virginia, filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the tax.

“We always said it didn't seem fair to have two neighbors live side by side and one pay the tax and the other didn't,” said John O’Connor, vice president of Steel of West Virginia.

Judge Jennifer Bailey heard the case in Kanawha County Circuit Court last October, and that's where the issue ended.

“The judge took it under advisement," said Mike Farrell, a lawyer who represented the city. "The home rule statute expired July 1, and the judge had a car accident shortly after that. So, to this day, almost one year after that hearing, we have no decision."

Farrell says, by default, the tax and the lawsuit are now moot points.

“Disappointment. We have needs and we don't have the money and we needed this home rule statute to give us a chance,” Farrell said.

For O'Connor, no ruling is a good ruling.

“I would have liked to see the ruling because I'm confident it would have come out in our favor, but the most important thing is our people won't be taxed,” O’Connor said.

The state legislature could still renew the home rule program for another three years to give Huntington a chance to let the issue play out. But Farrell says the reality is no one wants to make such a bold move during an election year.

So, for now, the occupation tax in Huntington is dead in the water.
A part of the new tax structure that wasn't challenged, a sales tax increase, was implemented at the beginning of this year and was expected to generate $4 million annually.

UPDATE 1/3/12 @ 8:40 p.m.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va.(WSAZ) --- Walmart shoppers, check your receipts.

If you shopped the Walmart along U.S. 60 in Cabell County on Jan. 1-2 and the early morning hours of Tuesday, Jan. 3, you may have overpaid.

"We had a call confirming Walmart is not within the city limits," Huntington Finance Director Deron Runyon said.

Runyon confirmed he spoke Tuesday morning with Walmart management.

"They've never been in the city limits, so I don't know how, internally, they determined to start this tax," Runyon said.

A spokesperson for Walmart's corporate office contacted WSAZ late Tuesday afternoon. The company issued an apology to shoppers. Anyone with a receipt, can bring it back to Walmart to have the 1 percent difference in sales tax refunded.

UPDATE 1/2/12
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- In the cash challenged city of Huntington, the New Year rings in new taxes and fees and not just for city residents.

WSAZ visited a lot of stores and other businesses on Monday, where "one" was not the loneliest, but the most talked about number.

Cashiers, clerks and customers were all talking about the one percent local sales tax now charged in Huntington as of January first.

The tax is part of a plan to erase a more than four million dollar city budget shortfall.

And that it's being met with mixed emotions is putting it mildly.

The tax talk seemed as intimate as the merchandise at Soma Intimates in Huntington’s Pullman Square district.

That’s where Mason County’s Nancy McIntosh sees one percent sales tax hike as a fact of modern life.

Nancy said, “Whatever they have to do to cover taxes, it won't effect how I shop in Huntington.”

And Soma store manager Johnda Shaffer said, “Our closest store is two hours away. I don't think it will affect our business. People are excited to have us in Huntington. With Soma, It will not make a difference.”

We saw a little more of a tax attack at the downtown Glenn’s Sporting Goods, where the fear is the one percent raise will drive some to get mauled.

Shopper Barry cook explained, “It will hurt Huntington, when you can go to the mall and get something for obviously cheaper”.

Glenn’s manager Paul Robateau added, ”It’s a hindrance for us, especially when people can go outside the city limits and still shop at the 6% or whatever.”

One movie goer paying a slight one percent more for a downtown Huntington theatre ticket is reserving judgment on the tax impact.

John Kiripolsky says, “Once we start seeing roads paved which we do not see now - if we start seeing progress, I won't have a problem with it.”

In paying one percent more on a big ticket new phone at AT&T, Bonnie Adkins says it is what it is. “It’s something you have to accept,"
Bonnie says, “I live here, I work here, this is where I like to spend my money. I don't have a choice.”

Huntington’s one percent sales tax does not affect fuel or vehicle purchases.

In 2012, Huntington residents are also paying a one time, $100 municipal fee surcharge to help erase that deficit.

WSAZ has received several calls and emails saying that Wal-Mart on Route 60, just outside the city limits has been collecting the Huntington sales tax since Sunday. The store's manager refused to comment.

WSAZ talked to Huntington Finance Director Deron Runyon, who says he is now investigating.

We will continue to follow this story.

UPDATE 12/28/11 @ 10:20 p.m.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va.(WSAZ) -- Huntington businesses were told about the changes in September, which Mayor Kim Wolfe refers to as a business-friendly change in taxes.

"Business would save $4 million annually, Wolfe said. "Our vision is to keep taking the burden off the businesses so they can grow."

B&O taxes contributed about $4 million to Huntington's annual budget.

The new structure eliminates the B&O tax for manufacturers. The retail tax will be reduced from a half percent to a quarter percent on sales and the service B&O sales tax will be reduced from 1 percent to .5 percent.

Marshall University and the hospitals inside the city pay only municipal fees on square footage.

It's estimated that a new 1 percent citywide sales tax will generate $4 million annually and offset the loss of B&O revenue.

Simply put, the new city sales tax will add a penny for every dollar consumers spend in Huntington.

Wolfe says the city can only tax items that the state taxes.

"We feel like this reform package is the correct way," he said. "And council agrees with our assessment."

The tax reform package goes into affect on Sunday, Jan. 1.

"We believe," said Wolfe, "with the turnaround of the economy, we think we'll be at a point where cities grow when jobs are created."

Part of this package is the 1 percent city occupation tax, which is still in litigation in Kanawha County. If it passes, the city will replace its $3 weekly user fee with the occupation tax.

UPDATE 12/28/11 @ 10:30 a.m.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- If you make a purchase in the City of Huntington starting Sunday, be prepared to pay a little bit more for that product or service.

May Kim Wolfe says the 1 percent Municipal Sales Tax goes into effect on Sunday.

Wolfe says the tax is not tied to the 1 percent Occupation Tax which remains in litigation. There is no word on when a Kanawha County judge will rule on the legality of the occupation tax.

Huntington will be the second municipality in the state to implement a Municipal Sales Tax; Williamstown began its sales tax on October 1.

Also going into effect Sunday, manufacturers, retailers and service businesses in the City of Huntington will see the business and occupation (B&O) taxes reduced or eliminated.

According to a press release, the reductions are projected to reduce taxes on businesses by nearly $4 million annually. Manufacturing B&O taxes will be eliminated; retail B&O taxes will be halved to 0.25 percent of sales; and service B&O will be halved to 0.50 percent of sales.

This is a part of the tax reform package approved by City Council in August 2010.

“The reduction of business taxes is a positive step toward creating jobs in the City. The elimination of manufacturing taxes helps our existing manufacturers and aids in the recruitment of other high wage paying employers,” Wolfe said.

The city says inquiries about the specifics of the Municipal Sales Tax should be directed to the State Tax Department at 1-800-982-8297.

UPDATE 10/5/11 @ 2:24 p.m.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Wednesday, a Kanawha County judge heard arguments about the legality of Huntington's one-percent occupation tax.

Judge Jennifer Bailey told attorneys Tuesday she would rule on the case within the next few weeks. The timing of her decision, she said, would depend on her caseload.

Attorneys for Steel of West Virginia, the petitioners of the tax, argued the one-percent occupation tax is unconstitutional because the tax, which the City of Huntington originally touted as a privilege fee, is not uniform. They also argued the home rule statute, from which the tax was created, is also unconstitutional.

The city's attorney argued the main focus should be on the constitutionality of the home rule statute from which the tax was derived.

Both parties said they would appeal the decision to the West Virginia Supreme Court if Judge Bailey rules against them.

UPDATE 9/5/11 @ 8:50 a.m.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The fight to keep more money in your pocket goes before a judge in Charleston Wednesday morning.

Kanawha County Circuit Court Judge Jennifer Bailey is set to hear oral arguments on the legality of Huntington’s one percent occupation tax. The hearing is set for 11 a.m.

Back in March, the City of Huntington received approval from the State Home Rule Board to implement the tax. City leaders also want to begin charging a 1 percent sales tax on goods and services sold in the city.

The tax was set to take effect July 1, but in late June, five lawsuits were filed to stop the taxes.

After the lawsuits were filed, Judge Bailey granted an injunction to stop the tax from taking effect.

The arguments against the tax will be made by the Stop Huntington's Occupational Unconstitutional Tax (SHOUT) coalition, a group of Huntington businesses and community members.

The City of Huntington says the tax would generate $8 to $11 million.

The tax would replace the current $3 a week user fee.

Lawyers for the city believe the case will eventually end up in the West Virginia Supreme Court.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for updated information.

UPDATE 8/29/11 @ 10:45 p.m.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Opponents of the Huntington Occupation Tax took further legal action to block it.

Their attorneys filed a motion Monday for a summary judgment, meaning a quick decision with no trial.

The 1 percent tax was set to take effect in Huntington on Friday July, 1, but in late June five lawsuits were filed to stop the taxes. After the lawsuits were filed, a Kanawha County Circuit Judge granted and injunction to stop the tax from taking effect.

A court hearing is set for Oct. 5.

UPDATE 8/25/11 @ 5 p.m.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A hearing date has been scheduled to hear arguments about the Huntington Occupation Tax.

Kanawha County Circuit Judge Jennifer Bailey has issued an order setting the hearing for Oct. 5.

The 1 percent tax was set to take effect in Huntington on Friday July, 1, but in late June five lawsuits were filed to stop the taxes. After the lawsuits were filed, a Kanawha County Circuit Judge granted and injunction to stop the tax from taking effect.

The arguments against the tax will be made by the Stop Huntington's Occupational Unconstitutional Tax (SHOUT) coalition, a group of Huntington businesses and community members.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the occupation tax include the Cabell County Commission, the Service Employees International Union, District 1199 representing 1500 employees in the area, including over 800 employees at Cabell Huntington Hospital; General Teamsters Local Union No. 505 representing over 150 employees in the City of Huntington; Cabell County Commissioner Bob Bailey; SWVA, Inc.; Nina Barrett, the Chair of the Marshall Classified Staff Council which represents over 600 classified employees at Marshall University; and Tommie L. Kelley, Sr., Chair of the Mountwest Community & Technical College Staff Council.

In addition the the hearing date, Judge bailey also set a deadline for information to be submitted for the lawsuit. All paperwork on the unconstitutionality of the tax must be submitted by Monday August 29, with additional briefings due on September 12, and September 26.

The lawsuit is supported by a broad base of governmental entities, union leaders, businesses, and citizens of the Huntington / Tri-State area, including the Huntington Chamber of Commerce.

Back in March, the City of Huntington received approval from the Home Rule Board to implement the tax. City leaders also want to begin charging a 1 percent sales tax on goods and services sold in the city.

The City of Huntington says the tax would generate $8 to $11 million.

The hearing is set for 11 a.m. on October 5.

Lawyers for the city of Huntington believe the case will end up in the West Virginia Supreme Court.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest on the occupation tax.

UPDATE 6/28/11 @ 4:20 p.m.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A Kanawha County Judge has put the City of Huntington's occupation and sales tax on hold.

The 1 percent taxes were set to take effect in Huntington on Friday July, 1, but last week five lawsuits were filed to stop the taxes

During a hearing Tuesday afternoon, a judge granted an injunction in the case.

The attorney representing the City of Huntington says he expects the tax issue to end up in the West Virginia Supreme Court.

The suits were filed by the Cabell County Commission, Steel of West Virginia, Bob Bailey, Tommie L. Kelley Sr., and Service Employees International Union 1199.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for updated information.

UPDATE 6/27/11 @ 11 p.m.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A hearing has been scheduled for 3 p.m. Tuesday in Kanawha County Circuit Court challenging the City of Huntington's occupation and sales tax, according to Huntington Mayor Kim Wolfe.

At Monday's regularly scheduled City Council meeting, Council went into executive session to discus the five lawsuits filed against the City last Wednesday.

After returning from their executive session, Council members voted to hire Mike Farrell to represent the City in court.

Five lawsuits are seeking an injunction against the one-percent occupation and sales tax set to take effect in Huntington Friday July, 1.

"They'll take the money out, but they have no representation and that's what this is all about," Cabell County Commissioner Bob Bailey said Monday. "We're trying to get the City to understand that some parts of the home rule are good, but the bad part is the one-percent tax because you can't tax people if they've got no one to represent them."

Bailey told WSAZ.com two more suits will be filed Tuesday afternoon before the hearing.

UPDATE 6/23/11 @ 3:45 p.m.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- With just seven days before the new one percent sales and occupation tax is set to take effect in Huntington, a hearing date has still not been set to discuss a lawsuit trying to stop it.

Five separate suits were filed Wednesday afternoon in Kanawha County, challenging the Constitutionality of the tax package, which had been previously approved by the home rule board.

The suits were filed by the Cabell County Commission, Steel of West Virginia, Bob Bailey, Tommie L. Kelley Sr., and Service Employees International Union 1199.

The Charleston law firm representing the plaintiffs says two more complaints will be filed in the near future, one by an individual and other on behalf of the Teamsters Local Union No. 505. As of 3:30 p.m. Thursday, they still have not been filed.

The City of Huntington and the Home Rule Board are named as defendants in the case.

The plaintiffs are asking for an injunction, to stop the tax package before it takes effect July 1.

As the ink was drying on those lawsuits in Charleston, Huntington employees were rallying outside Huntington City Hall. The most prominent of those were from Steel of West Virginia.

"This is a situation where Steel of West Virginia would have their taxes reduced if this went through, but we're not interested in cutting our taxes if it puts it on the backs of our employees," Steel of West Virginia Vice President John O'Connor said at the rally. "They work hard and they need to keep their money."

For the injunction to take place, a court hearing must be held before July 1.

A spokesperson with the Kanawha County Circuit Clerk's Office tells WSAZ.com a date has still not been set. The five lawsuits were assigned to five separate judges.

Most likely an initial hearing will be scheduled to combine all five complaints into one, according to the spokesperson.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the very latest information.

UPDATE 6/20/11
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A lawsuit to try and stop Huntington’s 1 percent occupation tax from taking effect in July is expected to be filed on Wednesday.

John O’Connor, VP of Steel of West Virginia, tells WSAZ.com he expects the suit to be filed in Kanawha County Circuit Court Wednesday afternoon. Steel of WV has been an outspoken critic of the tax.

O’Connor says Steel of West Virginia, the Cabell County Commission, Commissioner Bob Bailey, SEIU 1199 and the Teamsters are expected to be among the plaintiffs in the suit.

He also says a rally is being planned for outside City Hall at the same time the suit is filed.

Back in March, the City of Huntington received approval from the Home Rule Board to implement the tax. City leaders also want to begin charging a 1% sales tax on goods and services sold in the city.

The plaintiffs in the suit believe the occupation tax is unconstitutional.

The City of Huntington says the tax would generate $8 million to $11 million.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for update information.

UPDATE 4/28/11 @ 10:51 a.m.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) — The Cabell County Commission has voted to challenge the constitutionality of Huntington’s one-percent occupation tax.

The 2-1 vote came during Thursday’s Commission meeting.

Commissioners Bob Bailey and Nancy Cartmill voted in favor of taking legal action against the Home Rule Board and the City of Huntington. Commissioner Anny Yon says she supports the tax.

The one-percent tax is supposed to take effect July 1.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for updated information.

UPDATE 3/31/11 @ 4 p.m.
HUNTINGTON, W. Va. (WSAZ) -- The green light has been given, but the real fight could just be starting. The city of Huntington's controversial occupation tax is one step closer to becoming a reality, and now taxpayers are pleading for a stop, even if the end result is court.

"I urge you to do this for three reasons, first of all it's the right thing to do," pleads a representative from Steel of West Virginia to Cabell County Commissioners Thursday morning.

Two weeks ago the state's Home Rule Board voted three to two in favor of moving forward with the city's new tax structure, something Cabell County Commissioner Nancy Cartmill says is baffling.

"Most of them felt it was unconstitutional, but they felt like they had followed the process so they were going to go ahead and approve it," says Cartmill.

All eyes are now on the county commission and its decision of whether or not to file an injunction against the city or the Home Rule Board, questioning constitutionality.

"I'm not a fan of one government body suing another government body," says newest commissioner Anne Yon.

"I have never backed up and I will not back up, I am voting to file an injunction against the city," says commissioner Bob Bailey.

"Back in September I made it very clear I do not want to sue the city of Huntington," says Cartmill.

There are differing opinions amongst commissioners, but all three stand firm in urging businesses like Steel of West Virginia to do what they see fit.

"We would like the people who have come against this like the Chamber of Commerce, Cabell Huntington Hospital, Marshall University, and St. Mary's," says Bailey. "The Chamber of Commerce represents 90 percent of the business in Cabell County so we're hoping those people join us to bring a friendly suit to see if this thing is constitutional or not."

There is still time to file lawsuits, but as of now, the commissioners say there are too many unanswered questions and too much money at stake.

The one percent occupation tax would not go into effect until July 1. Commissioners say they are now continuing to gather information before making a final decision on whether or not to file a lawsuit.

UPDATE 3/17/11 @ 7:25 P.M.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- After a year of challenges and controversy, Huntington's city administration finally gets the green light to go ahead with the one percent occupation tax. That came with a close vote by the state's Municipal Home Rule Board this morning.

There were several heated exchanges between home rule board members and city administrators. At one point, it looked like the board was leaning toward voting it down, but a last minute rally pushed it through.

“I personally disagree with the occupation tax and the constitutionality of it,” said Kin Sayre, home rule board member.

It was a sentiment expressed repeatedly regarding Huntington's proposed one percent occupation tax. But, Huntington city administrators were ready--armed with a constitutional law expert, Professor Bob Bastress.

“This tax is being applied fairly and uniformly across the board to everyone who works in Huntington. The city has the privilege of deciding how they want to apply the tax,” said Prof. Bastress.

But, concerns were still expressed about the fairness of how the tax was being applied. On one hand, board members feel like it’s more of an income tax that should be applied to everyone even those who live in the city, but work elsewhere.

“If you live in the city you’re already paying property tax, municipal fees, refuse fees and we feel like that’s enough,” said Scott McClure, Huntington City Attorney.

On the other hand, the city calls it a privilege tax saying they can apply it however they see fit.

“All we’re asking is for the board to let us do our jobs and we’ll prove it can work,” said Kim Wolfe, Huntington Mayor.

The vote was a close one--three in favor and two against. But, there are several threats to sue over this--the Cabell County Commission had previously indicated they would sue. One of the commission members has since changed, but the county manager says the new commission will discuss their options at their next meeting in two weeks. Also, Steel of West Virginia is considering a lawsuit saying they're constitutional expert deemed the tax was unconstitutional contrary to Prof. Bastress’ opinion.

"He was wrong and an expert took at look at what he said and he tried to justify that uniformity didn't apply because this was not an income tax. Our expert says looks, smells like an income tax, it's an income tax and the uniformity requirement does apply here. It's not fair to our employees. Our work is cyclical and they need to make as much as they can while they're making it. If they're making $50,000 a year, this could make their tax go from $156 to $500 and we think the people working hard in the mill are the wrong people to be doing that to their taxes," said John O’Connor, VP of Steel of WV.

If the city has its way, it will implement the occupation tax this July.

UPDATE 3/17/11 @ 11:52 A.M.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The State Home Rule Board has given its okay to Huntington’s proposed tax reform package.

Huntington plans to repeal the $3-a-week user fee and replace it with a one percent sales tax and a one percent occupation tax.

The Board gave its okay to the plan by a 3-2 vote Thursday morning.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com or updated information.

UPDATE 2/17/11
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- It's another twist in an already tangled web surrounding the Huntington occupation tax. Now, a local lawmaker has made a proposal that could delay or kill the tax altogether.

The delegate wants to put the tax to a vote of the people.

This after the Huntington City Council has spent countless hours over the span of months battling the opposition. Now, as they sit on the verge of implementing this tax reform package, a potential roadblock could destroy everything.

First, there were months of heated debate from Huntington residents and workers for and against the occupation tax and the reform.

Then, an unexpected delay from the state home rule board wanting more information before it approved the tax reform package.

“The amendment says that any city under home rule that wants to change their tax structure has to put it to a vote of the people,” said Delegate Jim Morgan, R-Cabell County.

Cabell County Delegate Jim Morgan has proposed an amendment to a pending home rule bill that would put the tax up to the vote of the people.

“I don’t think it should be up to the few to decide for the many. If people want to vote this through and get their potholes fixed and other things, then so be it,” Delegate Morgan said.

“I think if people vote, they won’t necessarily do the right thing even though they should,” Cadaris Woods said.

“I think they should just implement it,”another Huntington resident said.

“I'm disheartened,” said Mark Bates, Huntington City Councilman.

Mark Bates is the chairperson of the city council. While the thought of a vote doesn't sit well with him, it's not because he's afraid it won't pass.

“I think it would pass by the folks who live in Huntington. It was mostly the folks who live outside of Huntington who opposed it,” Bates said.

He said after so much hard work, waiting on a vote wouldn't serve the city's best interest.

“It would take a lot longer before we could implement it,” Bates said.

Then, there's the issue of how you vote on it. Those in Huntington would get to vote, but then that creates a problem of those who live here, but don't work here voting and those who work here, but don't get to vote.

This is still a long way from reality. At this point, it's just a proposal that's cleared only one of many hurdles.

Some other concerns -- if the amendment passed, would this mean any time a city wanted to eliminate or raise a tax, it would require a vote?

For now, it remains food for thought.

UPDATE 1/26/11 @ 4:00 p.m.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - The one percent occupation tax, for the City of Huntington, has been declared constitutional, according Mayor Kim Wolfe.

Bob Bastress, a WVU constitutional law professor, has been helping the city determine if the tax abides by the state and federal constitution, and Bastress has determined it does.

City leaders are hoping to take the new findings before the Home Rule Board before the next scheduled meeting, which is March 17.

"We've been working on this for awhile,” says Mayor Wolfe. “I applaud council for their work on this, because ultimately they passed the package. The money being kept will be for improvements. It's not frills. It's to provide the citizens with the best possible service that we can."

The city's tax reform plan has been on hold since last September.

UPDATE: 9/27/10 @ 6 p.m.
HUNTINGTON, W.V. (WSAZ) -- Huntington Mayor Kim Wolfe says he is still an "optimist," even after the Home Rule Board tabled the City's proposed tax reform package.

The City planned to repeal the $3-a-week user fee Oct. 1, replacing it with a new proposed tax package -- a one percent sales and occupation tax.

Friday, the Home Rule Board said it had to complete a feasibility study and make sure the proposed package was constitutional before allowing it to be enacted, essentially tabling the plan indefinitely.

On Monday, Wolfe said the city would work to get information submitted to the Board as quick as possible.

"I'm always optimistic," Wolfe said when asked if he felt the Home Rule Board would allow the tax to be put into place. He also said it is "a little premature" to discuss options if the Board doesn't pass the plan.

City Council is scheduled to meet at 7:30 p.m. Monday to discuss budget issues and sewer projects.

UPDATE 9/24/10 @ 6:30 p.m.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Huntington city officials met with the state home rule board for what they hoped would be an approval of the tax reform package. But, instead, the board voted to table the issue.

They want two documents from the city before they proceed with a vote to approve the tax reform plan.

The home rule board sat down with Huntington Mayor Kim Wolfe and a full panel of city administrators including the city attorney. For two hours, information was presented and questions asked.

In the end, the board decided first, it wants the city administration to provide certification on the amended tax plan. That just basically states the city has done its part to ensure the plan is legal and constitutional. Second, the board wants a feasibility study on the 1 percent sales tax.

"A sales tax is about more than just a tax on the goods. It’s also about if someone buys something outside of Huntington for use in the city, then they owe the city 1 percent. We want to see how they plan to make that work,” said Kin Sayre, a home rule board member.

“I’m an optimist. Nothing good comes without hard work and challenges. We’ll get the paperwork together and get it to them,” Huntington Mayor Kim Wolfe said.

The city plans to get the requested paperwork to the board by early next week at which time the board will re-convene.

But, there's still that big elephant in the room. That's the threat by the Cabell County Commission to sue the state if this tax package passes --declaring the entire home rule process unconstitutional.
That could not only jeopardize Huntington's home rule plans, but those approved in the other home rule cities of Bridgeport, Wheeling and Charleston.

We should note the board did pass the rest of Huntington's home rule plan that includes better ways to get rid of dilapidated housing, hold property owners accountable for those dilapidated and or burned out structures, and collecting delinquent fees.

UPDATE 9/24/10 @ 3 p.m.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A step back Friday afternoon or Huntington’s plan to implement a one percent occupation tax and a one percent city sales tax.

During a meeting in Charleston, the Municipal Home Rule Board voted to table Huntington’s plan.

Board members told city leaders they want assurances that the plan is constitutional. They also want a feasibility study on the sales use tax.

City leaders tell WSAZ.com they plan to provide the Board with the information they requested early next week.

The Board is expected to re-convene sometime soon after that.

The plan was set to take effect October 1, if the board had given its okay on Friday.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for updated information.

UPDATE 9/23/10
HUNTINGTON, W. Va (WSAZ) -- In an 8-to-3 vote Thursday afternoon, City Council members voted in favor of the proposed tax package for Huntington. This includes the controversial one percent occupation tax. This was the final vote on the local level.

On Friday, the home rule board will vote 'yes' or 'no' to approve the occupation tax, along with the other amendments of the tax reform package.

City leaders hope to have all of the measures in place by October 1, but opponents aren't going to give up that easy.

If the tax is approved by the Board, the Cabell County Commission said it will request an injunction on the occupation tax and file a lawsuit against the state. The lawsuit will bring to question the constitutionality of the home rule pilot program that began in 1997.

If the judge decides to grant a temporary injunction, it would prevent the tax from going into effect. Another possibility is that an injunction could be placed over the entire home rule plan. This would effect all four cities under the plan.

UPDATE 8/10/10 @ 7 p.m.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- While the vote has been cast and new taxes approved, Huntington is still weeks away from implementing a new means of revenue that could pull the city out of a financial hole.

If Monday night's city council meeting was any indication, the path promises to be a bumpy one.

During the meeting, residents complained bitterly about the occupation tax, especially the cap for those who annual salary is more than $125,000. There also was considerable criticism from people who work in the city, but don’t live in Huntington.

The opposition to the city's tax package was loud and clear -- many people don't want it. While the opposition was vocal, the support is still there.

"If it would bring more money into the city and reduce taxes for businesses, then it’s a win-win," one Huntington resident said.

With a 7-4 vote, Huntington City Council approved the 1 percent occupation tax. The 1 percent sales tax passed 10-1, and the vote to reduce or eliminate the business and occupation tax was unanimous.

Here's a breakdown of the package: the city would impose a 1 percent tax on all earnings in the city with a cap at $125,000. That would mean no one would pay more than $1,250 a year. There would be no minimum tax break.

The package also would mean the elimination of the user fee and the reduction and, in some cases, the elimination of the B&O tax.

The occupation tax is expected to generate about $8 million. The user fee generated a littler more than half that. However, eliminating the B&O tax for the city's 80 manufacturing companies and cutting it in half for retailers and other businesses means a loss of nearly $4 million -- the same amount expected to be generated by the sales tax.

That means, after all of the changes, the city would make a total net gain of about $3.5 million.

Much of that money would go into capital improvements such as paving and major upgrades to the city’s infrastructure.

None of this, though, will go into effect for a little while longer. First, city council is required to hold a public hearing in mid-September. Then, the state home rule board has to give the final approval in late September. If all goes smoothly, the new plans would go into effect by Oct. 1.

UPDATE 8/9/10 @ 11 p.m.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Huntington City Council has approved the 1 percent occupation tax and a city sales tax.

The vote came late Monday night after often heated input from city residents, as well as residents from throughout our region.

Many people lined up outside City Hall, rallying against this new tax package. But even with all the protest, city council members voted unanimously for the new plan.

What this includes is a 1 percent occupation tax for all people who work in Huntington. With that, the $3 a week user fee would be eliminated.

The package also includes the reduction of the business and occupation tax on some businesses, but would instill a new 1 percent sales tax on state taxable items bought within Huntington's city limits.

But those who oppose that new plan say this extra money each week is really going to affect them.

The new plan is expected to generate an extra $3.5 million for Huntington, and city leaders say they hope to have all of this set in place by Oct. 1.

Before that happens, the state's Home Rule Board must consider the tax package and decide if it should be implemented or not.

UPDATE 8/9/10 @ 9:30 p.m.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A capacity crowd filled Huntington City Council chambers Monday night as council members consider a 1 percent occupation tax, as well as a city sales tax.

We have a crew at City Hall and will continue to bring you the latest information throughout the night. As of 9:30 p.m., council was still hearing from the public -- including residents from throughout our region -- and had not voted on either tax.

Despite that, we do know that it looks like members will be voting in favor of the new plan.

But the action started even before tonight's meeting. Outside of City Hall, dozens of people showed up to voice their opposition to the new tax package.

The package includes a 1 percent occupation tax for all people who work in Huntington. With that, the $3 a week user fee would be eliminated.

The proposed tax package also includes the reduction of the business and occupation tax on some businesses but would instill a new 1 percent sales tax on state taxable items bought within Huntington's city limits.

But those that oppose that new plan say why should workers pay for the city's financial problems and the tax.

"These are the guys that are the working class making 30, 40, 50, 60,000 dollars a year, and they're going to go from $156 a year to 400, 500, 600, $700 a year," said Craig Knight, president of Local 37 at Steel of West Virginia. "That's a house payment a vehicle payment, insurance payment that money can go to other thing. We've seen the one dollar a week user fee come in, then it went to two dollars then to three dollars and, to be honest, I haven't seen any improvement to city streets or city services with the three dollars a week."

Kevin Napier with Local 37 at Steel of West Virginia said, "It shouldn't be the working man's place to fix a problem the city has had going for years. I'm mean it shouldn't be. Why do I have to be taxed to come into this city?"

Craig Knight with Local 37 said the cap for anyone who makes $125,000 a year is what's most unfair about the occupation tax.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information about this developing story.

UPDATE 7/26/10 @ 10:30 p.m.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Huntington City Council decided Monday night to postpone voting on the proposed 1 percent occupation tax.

But they did, however, add a new amendment to the ordinance. Dozens of people turned out for the meeting -- some for the new tax package, but most against it.

The occupation tax would tax anyone who works in the city 1 percent of their gross annual pay.

The tax is aimed at taking the place of the $3 a week user fee, but for anyone making more than about $16,000 that would mean much more money would be coming out of their pockets every year.

The new amendment passed Monday night caps taxable income at $125,000 a year. That's up from the original $100,000 cap.

But still a lot of folks are unhappy about any sort of occupation tax for city workers.

The administration says the reason for the new tax reform package is not only to increase city revenue, but to help put more money back into the city by doing things like paving roads and fixing the viaducts.

However, a lot of people we spoke with Monday evening say they are done trusting the administration, saying they don't see their tax dollars being put to use.

Council is expected to vote on the 1 percent occupational and sales tax at their next meeting. It is scheduled Aug. 9.

UPDATE: 7/12/10 @ 11 p.m.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A new tax package proposed by Huntington Mayor Kim Wolfe would mean more money out of the wallet of those who work or shop in the City.

City Council discussed the tax package Monday evening in their first reading of the ordinance. The proposed plan would include a one-percent sales tax and a one-percent occupation tax.

The occupation tax would trigger the repeal of the already enacted user fee.

Abraham Saad is a Huntington lawyer, but his roots are in his parent's grocery store, Julian's Market. For his parents, the tax package would mean shoppers have to pay one-percent more to shop and workers have to pay one-percent more to work. Neither, he says, make good business.

"If people have less money in their pockets they're going to spend less," Saad said. "Its going to tell people not to shop in Huntington because they have to pay extra tax."

At Monday's meeting, Mayor Wolfe seemed set in his plan.

"Simply raising revenue is not the answer," Wolfe said. "I am dedicated to signing paper that will mean this tax reform."

"I don't think it's working," Saad said of the tax plan. "There has to be something else, maybe think outside the box other than just tax, tax, tax."

UPDATE: 4/30/10 @ 5:30 p.m.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A controversial proposal in the City of Huntington has been withdrawn.

The Huntington Finance Committee voted Friday evening to withdraw a 1 percent occupation tax for people who work in the city. The proposal just had its first reading this week.

"This is one of those hard decisions that we're gonna have to make that has an impact on a lot of people, that will be for the good of a lot of people," Councilman Nate Randolph said. "It might be a difficult decision to make now, but in the future that's what's gonna make a viable community for future generations ... That is the long view versus the short view."

On Friday, the committee said the proposal needs looked at again, and although the city needs revitalized, they're not sure this tax is the way to go.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.

UPDATE: 4/26/10 @ 11 p.m.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- There was more debate Monday night at Huntington City Hall regarding the proposed city occupational tax.

City Council had a first reading of the ordinance that would create a 1 percent income tax for people employed within the city limits of Huntington.

Council opened the floor to comments from the audience, and there was no shortage of takers.

If passed, the proposed tax would generate $8 million to $11 million.

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Huntington City Council discussed the proposed occupation tax for a second time Thursday night.

If passed, the tax would be a one percent tax straight from the paycheck of anyone who works in the city.

City officials say if the occupational tax passes, the user fee would disappear -- and that could work out being better than than the user fee for you.

The user fee takes $3 per paycheck, and the occupational tax takes one percent. That means if you make $200 each week, the occupational tax would take $2 from your paycheck, while the user fee would take $3.

Dozens of citizens signed up to dish their two cents about the proposal at Thursday's City Council meeting.

"You're not asking," resident Ernest Shaboo said. "You're taking."

Former Huntington Mayor Jean Dean was at the City Council Meeting, as well. "The user fee is unfair," Dean said. "At least the occupational tax is based on the percentage of income."

If passed, the proposed tax would generate $8-11 million dollars.

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