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Counties Watching West Virginia Tax Committee With Dread

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GRAPH: GOP leaders at the WV Legislature say they want to cut business taxes to spark job growth. But according to state and federal figures analyzed by the WV Center on Budget & Policy, steep business tax cuts over the last ten years have not increased employment. Graph by WV COBP.
GRAPH: GOP leaders at the WV Legislature say they want to cut business taxes to spark job growth. But according to state and federal figures analyzed by the WV Center on Budget & Policy, steep business tax cuts over the last ten years have not increased employment. Graph by WV COBP.
 By Dan HeymanContact
May 26, 2015

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Cash-strapped West Virginia counties are watching a special tax committee at the legislature with dread.

The Joint Select Committee on Fair Taxation may consider cuts to severance and business inventory taxes. Both could land hard on the counties, which have already struggled with falling revenue for several years.

Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper says if state lawmakers want to attract new businesses – as they say they do – it would be smarter to invest in education and infrastructure.

"Most of the business people that I talk to, and I talk to a lot of them, are interested in the quality of life here,” Carper says. “Do we have good schools? Do we have good roads?"

The legislature's Republican leadership says it wants to cut business taxes to spark job growth. But according to the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, slashing business taxes a decade ago didn't bring a promised boom, and only left a big hole in public budgets.

The committee hasn't put forward any specifics yet, which frustrates Carper and other county officials. He says he's heard rumors that the committee's plan could end up costing counties $55 million to $60 million, about a tenth of the counties’ total annual revenue.

He's afraid the committee might already have legislation copied from some big out-of-state conservative organization.

"I hope they haven't already copied some scheme from one of these so-called think tanks,” he states. “It's easy to give away revenue if you're not the one having to make up the difference."

According to a just-released report by the governor's blue ribbon task force on highways, the state's roads are badly in need. It estimates West Virginia would have to put in an additional $750 billion dollars a year just to keep the highways from getting any worse. Carper says that's a much smarter investment than tax cuts.

"If the legislature wants to do what they're getting paid to do, fix the roads,” he stresses. “The roads are costing business a fortune."


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