County commissioners pleased West Virginia business tax elimination failed

RIPLEY — County commissioners are relieved a bill to gradually eliminate the business and inventory tax failed in the West Virginia Legislature.

While the Senate approved Senate Bill SB 837 that would have gradually phased out the tax on equipment and machinery used for manufacturing, the companion Senate Joint Resolution 9 was defeated this week when it failed to receive a two-thirds majority.

Passage of both was needed.

Wood County Commission President Blair Couch was unsure how the reduction in tax revenue could have been recouped by schools, libraries, counties, cities and Easy Rider, the bus system in Parkersburg and Vienna.

“Those were all going to be a heavy lift and we were unsure that it would work out correctly so that we wouldn’t see substantial cuts in budgets,” Couch said. “It would be interesting to see if it comes up again.”

One proposal was to increase the sales tax and taxes on cigarettes, tobacco and e-cigarettes.

Jackson and Calhoun counties receive a bulk of county and educational funding from the taxes on pipelines and compressor stations in the oil and gas industry.

“The concern to the county commission was the loss of revenue without having a guarantee back fill for it,” Jackson County Commission President Dick Waybright said. “They had to have a vote on the amendment to do it and there (was) just a lot of concern if it would be back filled appropriately.”

Jackson County is among the top five counties in the state that would have been affected the most had the repeal passed, Waybright said. Like other counties in the state, Jackson County is preparing its next budget and preparations were affected by the uncertainty of what the revenue would be.

“We don’t have to worry about it right now. It looks like the numbers will stay with what they have in hand,” he said.

For Calhoun County, tax revenues from the compressor station pay the jail bill, according to Commission President Chip Westfall.

“We’re very happy it didn’t pass. That gives us a little bit of money to pay our jail bill,” Westfall said.

If the bill had passed and industry taxes were phased out, Westfall questioned whether it would help to bring more industry to the state.

“There’s no guarantee that it’s going to bring more industry to the state if that happens. We’ve been down that road many times,” Westfall said.

Candice Black can be reached at cblack@newsandsentinel.com.