The hopes of a new baseball park for West Virginia University within the next few years struck out Saturday night when the legislature failed to approve the Morgantown Tax Increment Financing bill.
Morgantown TIF would have created a special tax district to help finance the new ballpark, a new interchange along Interstate 79, along with space for retail and commercial businesses. But the bill fell prey to the political process and a magistrate pay raise bill.
The House passed the bill earlier in the session that would have equalized pay for all magistrates but the Senate, which had passed the TIF bill, didn’t agree to the widespread pay raise and agreed to raise salaries for magistrates in a half dozen counties. That wasn’t enough to satisfy the House leadership which kept the TIF bill on its inactive calendar for most of the day Saturday and never put it up for a vote on the House floor.
Sen. Finance Committee Chairman Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, made a last minute attempt and introduced a study resolution on the equalization of magistrate pay but it was too late to keep the Morgantown TIF bill alive.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin could choose to put both issues, magistrate pay and TIF, on a special session agenda next weekend when lawmakers return to approve the state budget. The governor’s office had no word on that possibility early Sunday morning. Although House Speaker Rick Thompson said he would push for it.
Sen. Clark Barnes, R-Randolph, said during a speech that took place just a few minutes before midnight Sat. that he only found two bills the entire 60-day session that would have created jobs; the Morgantown TIF and the Pendleton County casino, which both died.
The Morgantown TIF project is projected to create 1,100 construction and 1,500 permanent jobs. Barnes says the Pendleton project meant hundreds of jobs, potentially 1,000 homes and the further development of a top golf course.
“We are held hostage by the House of Delegates and the leadership thereof,” Barnes said. “Of all the things that we could have done positive in this body and in this legislature this year, we could have created a few jobs, but the opportunity is passed.”