Wednesday the House Committee on Constitutional Revisions held a public hearing on a proposed resolution to amend our State’s Constitution. This amendment would permit the Legislature to pass bills that would authorize counties to exempt new or existing businesses from paying a tangible personal property tax. This exemption would apply only to new personal property or equipment purchased after a date set by the county.
The hearing was well attended by representatives of state and local governments, large and small businesses, union and non-union representatives and private citizens. Comments were across the board.
Business and Industry Council’s representative spoke in favor of the amendment. A member of the WV Think Tank presented research that showed the business personal property tax is not a major issue in a business’s decision to locate in WV. Concern that this constitutional amendment would affect a county’s revenue for use on education, transportation and infrastructure was voiced by representatives of local government. The response to this revenue question was presented in two ways.
The first response indicated that this constitutional amendment would not have any impact on a county’s revenue because this exemption would only apply to personal property or equipment purchased after a date certain (meaning that a county is not receiving any revenue currently from personal property not yet owner/purchased and therefore, the county has not lost any revenue).
The second response indicated that exempting personal property purchased in the future by business will have a chilling affect on a county’s revenue because the county will not receive an increase in revenue from a business’s newly purchased property or equipment (projecting this into the future could mean a decrease in revenue as a result of yearly cost of living increases and no new business personal property tax to shore up the shortage).
The end of the hour long hearing left the members of the committee and the Delegates who sat in on the hearing with a lot of new information and several different and sometimes contradicting views to consider. The next step is up to the Committee on Constitutional Revisions. The Chairwoman must decide whether to take the resolution up in committee. If she decides to address the resolution, then it is up to the members of the committee to decide if the resolution passes out of the committee or dies.
If the resolution is passed it will then be taken up by the Judiciary Committee. If it passes out of Judiciary it will be introduced on the House floor for consideration and passage. Then it must repeat a similar process in the Senate. After that it must be signed by the Governor and then the resolution or Constitutional Amendment must be placed on a ballot and voted on by the citizens of our State. Because amendments to our State Constitution are rarely made this would be a good opportunity to watch and learn the complicated legal process required to amend our Constitution.
The byline “Inside the House” was first used by Del. Otis Leggett and it is with his permission and blessing that I will continue the use the name.
Delegate Patti E. Schoen can be reached at her capitol office at 304-340-3141, on her cell phone at 304-415-0411, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information please check out www.pattischoen.us and www.legis.state.wv.us.