By Erin Beck
With no opposition, Shinnston City Council passed a resolution during their Oct. 11 meeting in opposition to Amendment 2, which is on the Nov. 8 General Election ballot.
Amendment 2, which would be added to the West Virginia Constitution, would authorize the Legislature to exempt business machinery, equipment and inventory, as well as vehicles, from property taxes. It would give the Legislature control over 27 percent of total property tax revenue – an estimated $515 million. The vast majority goes to county governments, municipal governments and school districts.
The resolution states, “Whereas, the City of Shinnston finds that the residents of the State of West Virginia, including the hardworking residents of Shinnston, will ultimately pay for the significant corporate tax cuts contemplated by the Legislature in anticipation of the passage of Amendment 2, such as new sales taxes, higher real property taxes, other fees, and/or a combination….,” and “the loss of funds could be catastrophic for the residents of West Virginia statewide by depriving them of sufficient essential services, such as police officers, emergency responders and educational needs.”
The resolution refers to the potential amendment as what could be “one of the most substantial changes to West Virginia’s Constitution in nearly 100 years.”
“It is not the place of Shinnston, West Virginia to tell registered voters how to vote on this issue,” the resolution states. “However, the City of Shinnston is committed to the well-being of its residents and visitors and, as such, seeks to inform the public of the potentially devastating and far-reaching impacts that Amendment 2 could have on public safety and local government services in Shinnston.”
According to the resolution, the City of Shinnston finds that passage would “decrease control of local levying bodies and transfer that control to the state by causing the removal of certain constitutional protections that allow these bodies to provide critical funding for law enforcement, fire protection, emergency medical services, and public education…”
The resolution also states that there is no consensus among lawmakers and the governor as to how that money for counties and cities could be replaced, and that replacing that money would require new legislation. While lawmakers who support the resolution say they would replace the lost revenue, they haven’t provided a clear plan for public review.
The resolution states that the loss of funding could “result in less services for residents and visitors to Shinnston, including fewer police officers, emergency responders, teachers and school personnel” and that “at this point, there is no clearly established plan to replace the funds for these important local services if personal property taxes upon which they rely are eliminated or reduced.”
The West Virginia Manufacturers Association, which supports the amendment, has said it would pave the way for business recruitment and retention, as well as put money back into the pockets of the state’s taxpayers, in part because the Legislature could choose to exempt personal vehicles from property taxes.
Governor Jim Justice, meanwhile, has said the amendment would provide the most benefit to big business, including out-of-state corporations, and the Republican governor also proposed that the vehicle tax could be singularly eliminated with a bill rather than a sweeping change to the state Constitution.