WV Groups at Odds with Gov. Justice on Amendment 2

October 12, 2022

Mountaineer News

WV State News

CHARLESTON, WV - West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice reiterated his opposition to a business property tax cut, but the proposal is garnering support from Republican legislative leadership, the state Republican party, the Chamber of Commerce and the Manufacturers Association.


Voters will decide the fate of the potential tax cut through a referendum on their ballots Nov. 8, less than a month from today. A constitutional amendment, which appears as Amendment 2, would give the legislature the authority to exempt machinery, equipment and inventory taxes from local taxing authority. Supporters argue that it will spur economic growth, but the governor argues that it will jeopardize his effort to phase out the state income tax and strip local governments of money.


“It's time to give West Virginia tax payers a meaningful break that puts money in their pockets and grows our economy,” the West Virginia Manufacturers Association said in a statement about the amendment. “Amendment 2 provides a way forward for our state.”


The West Virginia Chamber of Commerce is arguing the amendment would make the state more competitive, create jobs and support economic development. The chamber urged voters to support the amendment, claiming that the tax encourages businesses to relocate elsewhere and denies job opportunities to West Virginian residents. According to the Chamber, the tax hurts small businesses.


West Virginia Republican Party Chairwoman Elgine McArdle spoke in favor of each proposed amendment on the November ballot, including Amendment 2.


“It’s this simple. If you don’t vote for Amendment 2, your taxes will never be eliminated or decreased,” McArdle said, according to the Intelligencer and Wheeling News Register. “They will only increase. It’s a constitutional guarantee that you will be taxed if Amendment 2 isn’t passed.”


Earlier this year, the West Virginia Senate voted in favor of a resolution to express its intent to provide business property tax exemptions if voters approve the amendment in November. This came after Senate leadership refused to hold a vote on Justice’s proposal to cut the income tax by 10%, which is part of his plan to fully eliminate the state income tax.


According to the governor, approving this tax cut would prevent the state from having the ability to phase out the income tax. He argues that phasing out the income tax is proven to spur economic and population growth and would immediately put money back into the hands of taxpayers. The business property tax exemptions, he said, would only put money into the hands of big corporations.


“We’re battling the manufacturers’ money,” Justice said during a news conference. “You’re battling the chamber of commerce and their money. You’re battling propaganda.”


Amendment 2 also gives lawmakers the authority to approve exemptions for vehicle property taxes, but the governor said this provision is just a way to buy votes for the business tax exemptions. He said the amendment would benefit his companies financially, but that he opposes it because it would be bad for West Virginia.


The Justice administration is again working on legislation to phase out the state’s income tax, which the governor plans to introduce into the legislature. This effort has failed three straight times.