W.Va. voters to decide on property tax measure on Election Day

W.Va. voters to face question on property tax modernization
Published: Sep. 27, 2022 at 11:25 PM EDT
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KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) - All West Virginia voters will be asked a question on their ballot that could change how some public services are funded.

The Property Tax Modernization Amendment, which has also been referred to as “Amendment Two” would give the state Legislature power over more than a quarter of the property.

On ballots, voters will see text describing the purpose of the amendment. Based on a sample ballot provided to WSAZ from the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office, the measure will read as follows:

“To amend the State Constitution by providing the Legislature with authority to exempt tangible machinery and equipment personal property directly used in business activity and tangible inventory personal property directly used in business activity and personal property tax on motor vehicles from ad valorem property taxation by general law.”

Voters will have to fill in an oval labeled “for” or “against” the measure.

The full text of the amendment can be found here.

Republican Senate President Craig Blair expressed support for the bill.

“We believe that West Virginia families deserve money back in their pockets, and there is no better way to do that than to eliminate the 13th car payment most families make on their automobiles each year,” Senate President Blair said in a statement Tuesday. “If this Amendment fails, it’s here to stay. If it passes, it’s gone, no counties will suffer, and our small business owners in the state of West Virginia will reap the benefits of the kinds of tax breaks that have previously only been given to large corporations. It’s a win for everybody.”

However, other top Republicans in the state feel differently. Gov. Jim Justice has been holding Community Conversations urging West Virginians to vote against the proposal.

At a Tuesday talk in Kanawha County, Justice expressed beliefs that Amendment 2 is unnecessary for attracting new businesses and residents in the state, instead asking voters to consider supporting an end to the state’s income tax.

“In all honesty, it’s people like me benefiting with my companies, my companies will benefit to the tune of millions of dollars with the machinery income tax being gone,” Justice said. “The reason I’m telling you don’t do it is because we need people in West Virginia, we need people driving West Virginia at the end of the day, [the amendment] is a big time risk.”

Blair, who also participated in the event in Kanawha County, released a statement thanking the governor for presenting the opportunity for voters to ask questions. The statement goes on:

“Nothing in Amendment 2 takes anything away from anybody. In fact, it gives. It gives more options to the state of West Virginia to achieve comprehensive and meaningful tax reform.”

“If the Governor wants to insist that the passage of Amendment 2 means that West Virginia will never eliminate the personal income tax, that’s his choice,” Senate President Blair said. “We know that is absolutely not the case, and can prove it with a plan that is available for anybody to see. We’ve been completely transparent from Day One that Amendment 2 means options. If you want to see the tax on your vehicles eliminated, you vote yes. If you want our small businesses to stop being punished with equipment and inventory taxes regardless of their revenues, you vote yes. If you want only Governor Jim Justice to have the ability to decide what tax reform in the state of West Virginia looks like, vote no. It’s as easy as that.”

The Governor said if voters end up passing the amendment, he would support it.

Other state agencies have expressed concerns over the amendment, worrying about what it means for services used by West Virginians on a daily basis.

“I think it would be very discouraging for anyone considering going into public education whether it be a teacher, bus driver, cook or secretary, I think it would be very discouraging,” said West Virginia American Federation of Teachers President Fred Albert. “It would be one more hit for them to take and I don’t think we need that at this point in our history.”

The West Virginia Manufacturers Association is in support of the amendment.

“I think we can, we look at it from the lens of job creation, in addition to the benefit of the possibility of removing the tax on motor vehicles,” the Association’s President Rebecca McPhail said. “We look at this as a way to incentivize growth in West Virginia businesses and create more jobs to keep people here and to attract people to the state.”