CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper says he’s concerned state lawmakers may try to rush through a proposal to eliminate the personal property inventory tax on machinery and equipment without a full hearing.

Carper said Thursday on MetroNews “Talkline” some don’t believe eliminating the tax would require an amendment to the state Constitution. That’s not even a question, Carper said.

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Kent Carper

“The forefathers in this state were very smart,” Carper said. “They knew the politicians would take money away from programs that weren’t popular to them so that’s why they put it in the Constitution.”

Carper said Republicans rushed through the federal tax reform bill without any hearings and the majority at the Statehouse may try to do the same with the proposed elimination of the inventory tax.

“I don’t think they will have a thorough debate. I think they’ll announce hearings that start in about 15 minutes, give speakers two minutes to talk and then after they discuss it they will change it 10 times in private,” Carper said.

State Senate President Mitch Carmichael responded Thursday saying any bill in the Senate dealing with the tax’s elimination will have a “full hearing with ample notice. We have always done so and will continue this process,” Carmichael said.

Eliminating the inventory tax is one of the top priorities heading into the session for the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, president Steve Roberts said.

“We listen to businesses that are in state that say, ‘Hey we like it here. We like the lifestyle, we like the people here. We want to be able to expand here but you’ve got to give us the ability to compete with other states,'” Roberts said Thursday on “Talkline.”

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Steve Roberts

There’s no personal property tax on machinery and equipment in Pennsylvania or Ohio and Virginia’s rate is low with an exemption on machinery and equipment, state officials have said.

Approximately 27 percent of what the state collects in personal property taxes is distributed among the state’s 55 counties with boards of education getting the largest share of the allocation. An elimination of the inventory tax section of the personal property tax would take away money from education. Roberts said another funding source would have to be found to fill the gap. An increase in property taxes has been suggested.

Roberts said eliminating the inventory tax is about putting West Virginia in a better place to compete for jobs and increase the workforce participation rate along with increasing personal income.

“While West Virginia has really done a good job of fixing some things that need to be fixed–this is one we haven’t fixed yet and we need to get around to,” Roberts said.

The 60-day regular legislative session begins Jan. 10 at the state capitol.

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