Senate President Jeff Kessler says he is “confident” Morgantown’s proposed tax increment financing district will ultimately get approval from the Legislature, even though the bill died during the 2013 Regular Legislative Session.
“I’m not sure. I’m still trying to figure it out,” the Senate President said when asked, on Monday’s MetroNews Talkline, why the bill failed.
“It was a bill that certainly is extremely important to North Central West Virginia, to Morgantown and to Monongalia County.”
The House of Delegates did not take the bill up for a vote on Saturday, the final day of this year’s session.
House supporters of a separate bill that would have equalized pay for all magistrates were using the Morgantown TIF bill as leverage, trying to get the Senate to agree to the widespread pay raise. The Senate did agree to raise salaries for magistrates in half a dozen counties, but that was not enough for those in the House.
“We probably needed to sit down, the Speaker (of the House), myself, the Governor even, if necessary, and our finance chairmen to get this thing ironed out, rather than playing cat and mouse,” Senator Kessler said of the standoff’s result.
“It was obvious to me that is was online to be a train wreck waiting to happen, unfortunately.”
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Roman Prezioso says there are many reasons why Senators opposed pay raises for all magistrates. “Throwing a carte blanche pay raise, across the board, doesn’t solve the problem,” Senator Prezioso said.
Despite a last minute proposal from the Senate to study magistrate pay raises, the bill failed with the close of session.
At this point, there is no word on whether Governor Earl Ray Tomblin will call lawmakers into Special Session to address the bill this week or later. Senate President Kessler says there will have to be signs of an agreement if that is going to happen soon.
“He will not call us in if there’s not an understanding that we can dispatch it in short order,” he said.
The Morgantown TIF would create a special tax district to help finance a new ballpark, a new interchange along Interstate 79 and space for retail and commercial businesses. By all accounts, it failed not on its merits, but because of the political wrangling.
Developers of the project have said the TIF district is a crucial part of the funding plan for the overall $16.2 million proposal, with the potential for thousands of new jobs, and it will likely shelved without an agreement.