CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The County Commissioners Association of West Virginia has their eyes on a number of bills this legislative session including a constitutional amendment to eliminate the state inventory tax.
The plan would phase out the state’s personal property tax on business inventory and equipment over a seven-year period beginning in July 2020.
Vivian Parsons, executive director of CCAWV, said is concerned the move won’t benefit all 55 counties.
“For those in the coal fields, it can guarantee that revenue stream that could be going down. For those in the oil and gas areas, it could stifle growth that they’re looking forward to, so it’s tough,” Parsons told MetroNews during the CCAWV’s Annual Legislative Meeting Monday.
Nearly 100 county commissioners from across the state met at the Embassy Suites in Charleston.
Governor Jim Justice spoke to members at Monday’s meeting where he pledged the inventory tax elimination would make counties “whole.”
Embedded in the constitutional amendment proposal to repeal the inventory tax on machinery and equipment is the provision that counties will be made whole in the state budget. You have my commitment. #WVGov pic.twitter.com/Kt3HTj7Vxi
— Governor Jim Justice (@WVGovernor) January 29, 2018
Parsons said she has concerns about how this year’s state budget would impact the proposal.
“If in fact we are made whole with this constitutional amendment, to do that it has to come from the state budget. What other things in other areas might get cut back at the state level in order to provide that funding that might roll down the hill to county government? I think that’s not something that anybody is really talking about or even really knows how that might play out,” she said.
The elimination of the tax would equal $140 million in annual cuts to the state budget by 2026, according to the proposal.
Tim McCormick, president of CCAWV, is from Ohio County and said he knows his area would not benefit from the phase out.
“I’m in a county that won’t benefit from it because we have a lot gas going on — Doddridge County, Harrison County — those counties are going to be the ones that will be on the negative end of it,” he said. “Are we against moving things forward in the state? No, but we have to take care of our people back home.”
The CCAWV is also looking at a number of bills relating to state regional jails.
One of those bills includes HB 2845 to establish that the state Division of Corrections is responsible for an inmate’s housing costs beginning the day after the inmate’s conviction. McCormick said counties would save a lot of money on jail costs.
“It would save a lot of costs to counties because sometimes we have people who are convicted but don’t get sentenced until three months after their convictions. Those three months time we’re paying a daily fee for the jail bill, when they should be in the DOC,” he said.
A bill that does not have the support of the CCAWV is SB 369 which would consolidate the state Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety’s prison, jail and juvenile justice agencies into a single division.
The state Division of Corrections, the Regional Jail and Correctional Facilities Authority and the Division of Juvenile Services would be combined into the “West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation” within DMAPS.
McCormick said the bill would be “devastating” to counties because it raises the per diem to $55 per day which would be a 14 percent increase.
“We have counties now struggling to pay their jail bill. You raise that to $55 and you’ll have every county in the state struggling to pay the jail bill if they can pay it all. It’s of no benefit to counties whatsoever,” McCormick said.
The plan, developed by DMAPS Secretary Jeff Sandy and his team, has the the support of Governor Jim Justice.