CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (WBOY) — This November, Amendment 2 will be on the ballot for voters in West Virginia, and the Harrison County Commission is concerned.

Amendment 2 would give the state legislature the ability to exempt 27% of tangible personal property taxes for vehicles owned by individuals and businesses used for strictly business purposes. Currently, the West Virginia Constitution grants local governments control over personal property tax funds.

Business interests have praised the amendment, claiming that West Virginia’s current tangible personal property taxes make it harder to attract businesses and that cutting taxes would make the state more competitive.

The full text of the Amendment is as follows:

Subject to the exceptions in this section contained, taxation shall be equal and uniform throughout the state, and all property, both real and personal, shall be taxed in proportion to its value to be ascertained as directed by law. No one species of property from which a tax may be collected shall be taxed higher than any other species of property of equal value; except that the aggregate of taxes assessed in any one year upon personal property employed exclusively in agriculture, including horticulture and grazing, products of agriculture as above defined, including livestock, while owned by the producer, and money, notes, bonds, bills and accounts receivable, stocks and other similar intangible personal property shall not exceed fifty cents on each one hundred dollars of value thereon and upon all property owned, used and occupied by the owner thereof exclusively for residential purposes and upon farms occupied and cultivated by their owners or bona fide tenants, one dollar; and upon all other property situated outside of municipalities, one dollar and fifty cents; and upon all other property situated within municipalities, two dollars; and the Legislature shall further provide by general law for increasing the maximum rates, authorized to be fixed, by the different levying bodies upon all classes of property, by submitting the question to the voters of the taxing units affected, but no increase shall be effective unless at least sixty percent of the qualified voters shall favor such increase, and such increase shall not continue for a longer period than three years at any one time, and shall never exceed by more than fifty percent the maximum rate herein provided and prescribed by law; and the revenue derived from this source shall be apportioned by the Legislature among the levying units of the state in proportion to the levy laid in said units upon real and other personal property; but property used for educational, literary, scientific, religious or charitable purposes, all cemeteries, public property, tangible machinery and equipment personal property directly used in business activity, tangible inventory personal property directly used in business activity, personal property tax on motor vehicles, the personal property, including livestock, employed exclusively in agriculture as above defined and the products of agriculture as so defined while owned by the producers may by law be exempted from taxation; household goods to the value of two hundred dollars shall be exempted from taxation. The Legislature shall have authority to tax privileges, franchises, and incomes of persons and corporations and to classify and graduate the tax on all incomes according to the amount thereof and to exempt from taxation incomes below a minimum to be fixed from time to time, and such revenues as may be derived from such tax may be appropriated as the Legislature may provide. After the year nineteen hundred thirty-three, the rate of the state tax upon property shall not exceed one cent upon the hundred dollars valuation, except to pay the principal and interest of bonded indebtedness of the state now existing.

Amendment 2

At a County Commission meeting Wednesday, Executive Director for the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy Kelly Allen said that 70% of the saving from the tax cut will go to businesses and that many of them will be out-of-state corporations.

Commissioners are concerned that they will lose local control and authority if Amendment 2 is passed.

“Local officials are one: worried about losing their authority, right now the revenue comes right to them, whereas if it’s eliminated they won’t have the resources they need to pay for these really important public services,” Allen said. “People rely on good public schools, people want the fire department to come when they call, people want their parks and libraries to be available to them to take their families to and this really puts that all at risk.”

The West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy’s presentation estimated that 29% of the tax savings would go to individuals who have a vehicle used strictly for business purposes, as the amendment outlines, and the remaining 71% would go to businesses for their machinery, equipment, inventory, and other business personnel property.

PowerPoint at the Harrison County Commission meeting. (WBOY Image)

Allen talked about how Ohio passed similar legislation, with the intent of creating more manufacturing jobs; but it ended up creating an incentive for businesses to use more machinery, and led to automation-induced job losses.

PowerPoint at the Harrison County Commission meeting. (WBOY Image)

“Even the premise of proponents of Amendment 2 that this would create jobs is really flawed for two reasons; One it may not even create manufacturing jobs if it just leads to more automation, but two the corresponding loss in jobs like teachers, firefighters, and sheriffs, that’s a literally loss in jobs and that has rippling effects through our community,” Allen said.

The commissioners estimated more than $18 million in property tax revenue could be lost for Harrison County under Amendment 2, which could lead to budget cuts and job losses for schools, emergency services and public services.

PowerPoint at the Harrison County Commission meeting. (WBOY Image)

Allen claimed states that have business inventory and equipment taxes have more manufacturing job growth than states without the tax.

PowerPoint at the Harrison County Commission meeting. (WBOY Image)

The Harrison County Commission is hoping to educate the public on the items they will be voting for in November and commissioners want answers as to whether or not the state is trying to take control away from local officials.

“We are trying to educate the public concerning this amendment and the three others that will be on the ballot in November,” said Susan Thomas, Harrison County Commission President, “Are they trying to take away local control and give it to the state? That’s another issue I personally have.”

Click here to learn how counties would make up for lost revenue if Amendment 2 were to pass.