CHARLESTON, WV (WOAY) – The 2020 legislative session is scheduled to begin next week with the State of the State Address given by Governor Jim Justice.
On Friday, media from all over West Virginia got a little taste of what we can expect from the upcoming session at the annual West Virginia Press Association’s Legislative LookAhead.
Non-discrimination legislation, legislation that would put in an intermediate court of appeals and more funding for tourism in the budget are all things we could see addressed.
However, one thing that kept coming up in all of the panels was phasing out an inventory tax that has been a burden on larger businesses.
“The problem has been that when you have a business that has a large inventory, you carry a lot of stuff that you use in manufacturing and that’s taxed, so some people would say that that causes businesses to locate elsewhere when they could be here in West Virginia,” Del. Mick Bates (D – Raleigh) said.
Del. Bates expects this will be the big fight this year along party lines and based on geographic location.
“The answer to this problem would require equalization so this would impact growth counties differently than low-growth counties, so populations that have low tax base, that are losing businesses, they potentially are in a position to be able to gain a little bit by some of the proposals I’ve seen,” Del. Bates said. “On the other side, if you’re in an area that’s doing well, that is getting better, that’s prosperous then you’re collections are likely to be higher in the future years then they’re likely to be in opposition to this tax removal.”
Supporters of phasing out the inventory tax, including Republican Senate President Mitch Carmichael, say this will free up businesses and the little under $100,000,000 that streams in from this tax can be made up for in surpluses from other sectors.
Neighboring states like Ohio and Pennsylvania do not have these taxes which was also a point brought up.
But another problem mentioned in relation was creating and retaining a young workforce to bring in business as the state is working on recruiting both tech and petrochemical companies.
“It’s one of the problems with our workforce participation rate because our population is aging. We’re one of the oldest populations in the country so we need to change that,” West Virginia Secretary of Commerce Ed Gaunch said. “They way you do it is you take a step at a time and improve the infrastructure, improve the activities available, improve the local neighborhoods, improve the crime rate. All those things are part of it.”
Del. Bates also said that another complex issue he hopes is worked through this session is the jail bill issue that is hurting counties all over the state and has an especially tight grip on Raleigh, using up a big chunk of the county’s budget.
However, those in the legislature will have a better idea of what their priorities will be once the governor makes his address on Wednesday.