Governor Justice proposes vehicle tax refund
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - Gov. Jim Justice proposed a bill Tuesday that he says would eliminate personal property taxes on vehicles for everyone in West Virginia.
Justice says the bill is called the “Car and All Vehicle Tax Elimination and Protection of Local Government Act,” and it would provide a dollar-for-dollar refund for personal property taxes paid to county sheriff’s departments in 2022 and every year going forward for citizens and businesses.
He says the refund would be provided by the state’s General Revenue Fund and would not interfere with the property tax revenue stream guaranteed to local governments and school boards.
Justice says the proposed bill would save West Virginia taxpayers about $145 million.
The governor says the bill is written and ready for lawmakers to consider. However, he told WSAZ NewsChannel 3 that he is not ready to call a special session. Instead, he said would not consider calling lawmakers back to Charleston until there was greater consensus. That may be after the election, he said.
Justice touted the bill as a workaround to Amendment 2, which is on the ballot for the Nov. 8 General Election.
It represented the Governor’s latest attack on Amendment 2. The referendum, if passed by voters, would allow lawmakers to change, and potentially eliminate, taxes on personal property, business inventory and business machinery.
“Today I am proposing legislation to get rid of the car tax immediately,” Justice said during Tuesday’s announcement.
The governor argues Tuesday’s plan would allow him to eliminate the car tax -- without drastic change to the state Constitution.
Under the proposal, car owners would still pay the tax to local counties with a refund to follow from the State Capitol.
Senate President Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, said it’s not that easy.
“Now we’re expected to actually fill out another form to get your tax dollars back? No,” Blair said Tuesday afternoon. “That’s not the good way of going about to do it. Vote yes on Amendment Two, and we’re going to make it so you don’t have to pay this tax at all.”
Blair said he believes Justice’s plan was an attempt to confuse voters -- weeks away from the November election.
The Governor made his pitch Tuesday in a closed room with no reporters present.
So WSAZ went to the Capitol and asked, why now?
“Are you concerned this is going to further confuse voters,” asked WSAZ Investigative/Political Reporter Curtis Johnson.
“Well, to be perfectly honest Curtis, we need to take off the table an issue that doesn’t have anything to do with what really Amendment Two is all about,” Justice replied.
The governor contends Amendment Two uses the car tax as bait, an alleged ploy to convince voters to give the state greater control over local government.
“Is what you’re proposing today, not bait to see your side prevail -- thus the failure of Amendment Two,” Johnson asked.
“No. Of course not,” Justice answered. “Amendment Two is about Charleston grabbing control away from the counties. You know, now people should have the right to know that. At the end of the day, all I’m trying to do is to take away all of the distractions.”
The governor also answered criticism -- that obtaining rebate will be too complex.
“Today, we have the ability to be rid of the worry of paying your car tax,” Justice said Tuesday afternoon.
“Well, they still have to pay it, don’t they?” Johnson asked.
“They pay it, but they get the money right back, OK,” Justice replied.
“And is that more complicated than just not paying it at all?” Johnson inquired.
“I can say that, I mean we can debate this until the cows come home, but in my scenario, it’s done,” Justice said.
The governor argues passage of Amendment Two offers no guarantee of quick tax relief, as an Election Night victory would start the clock on another legislative debate.
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