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Wheeling mayor: State needs tax reforms without shifts in burdens to cities

WHEELING, W.Va. — The mayor of Wheeling says state lawmakers cannot continue to delay comprehensive reforms to West Virginia’s tax system.

Wheeling Mayor Andy McKenzie

“They have to do tax reform,” Mayor Andy McKenzie said.

“We have an archaic tax system. We’re not competitive with states like Virginia and Pennsylvania and Maryland and other states, so we’ve got to become more competitive so we can do economic development and grow”

While he is a supporter of comprehensive reforms, McKenzie was pledging to oppose any proposals from the Legislature’s Joint Select Committee on Tax Reform that shift the state’s financial burdens onto local governments.

“There are things that they can do that, while it would fix, maybe, their problems, it would just simply hurt local government,” McKenzie said on Monday’s MetroNews “Talkline” as the lawmakers making up that committee listened to the details of past state tax studies during a meeting at the State Capitol.

McKenzie previously wrote a position paper calling for an overall reworking of West Virginia’s “archaic tax system.”

“For more than 150 years, the Legislature has taken a complicated tax code and made it even more complex,” McKenzie wrote. “Unless it is streamlined, families and businesses have no future here. Year after year, the Legislature has procrastinated.”

County assessments of property taxes, with the code being applied differently in all 55 counties currently, have long been neglected, according to McKenzie. “Simplifying the way we tax personal property, corporations, sales, gasoline consumption and other goods and services will encourage manufacturing, mining and natural gas exploration,” he wrote.

“A more progressive tax system will invite more business to West Virginia, not drive it away, especially as it affects manufacturing.”

McKenzie said Virginia, a leader in economic growth, should serve as an example for the Mountain State. “If we can make our state more competitive, more growth like Virginia particularly, that’s a win-win for everyone in West Virginia,” he said.

“We create jobs. We create opportunities and we move our state forward.”

A former state senator, Mayor McKenzie said Monday he had made no decisions about his future political plans.

Members of the Joint Select Committee on Tax Reform began their work last month. The Legislature could take up their recommendations in a Special Session later this year or during the 2016 Regular Legislative Session.

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