DEMO MEMO Op-ED: Smart Business Policy Puts West Virginians First
Smart Business Policy Puts West Virginians First
Senator Mike Romano (D-Harrison), Delegate Cindy Lavender-Bowe (D-Greenbrier) and Delegate Doug Skaff (D-Kanawha)
As elected Legislators, we are supposed to do our best for the people of West Virginia. Unfortunately, that seldom happens these days in the state Legislature. This Session, the Republican majority that controls the Legislature is pushing more bad legislation that sounds good, but benefits few and hurts many. They are advocating for eliminating all or part of county business personal property taxes–specifically, the heavy machinery tax. Those pushing the bill have no way to fill the $100 million hole that would be punched from the state’s budget.
A heavy machinery tax repeal does not put West Virginians first. More than 88% of our state’s businesses are small businesses with 25 or fewer employees. Small businesses are run by our neighbors. They employ our friends and family, who spend their wages in our local economies. They are job creators and Main Street sustainers, meeting local demand created by the local spending… which creates more jobs, right here.
If the goal was really to give all businesses that pay inventory property taxes a break, why do only large manufacturers benefit? Why not start on the other end of the spectrum, focusing on West Virginia small businesses that pay the inventory tax? Why not help the businesses that employ the most West Virginians? The cost to the state’s budget would be manageable and benefit all West Virginians.
Without heavy equipment taxes, a big hole is blown in the budgets of most of counties and public schools, which still have the same obligations. Counties secure public safety; they run our senior services, health departments, fairs, local economic development, libraries, and parks, among many others. Public schools educate our children. Heavy equipment taxes fund fire departments, police, and EMS. Make no mistake, elimination of heavy equipment taxes will shift the burden of these services onto everyday West Virginians. Without a replacement, counties and public schools will be forced to raise property taxes on our homes and vehicles or be forced to cut essential services.
The Legislature claims improving our business climate will bring jobs to the state, yet no action is ever enough. Business taxes have been cut one-half billion dollars annually since 2015, without adding any private sector jobs. In fact, since 2006, the state has seen lower job growth than every surrounding state and is among the lowest in the country, yet, according to The Tax Foundation, we have one of the best business tax climates in the country (23rd) and among the lowest corporate tax rates (15th). That’s better than ALL our surrounding states. How can the Republicans honestly claim that eliminating business personal property taxes will help create jobs? They can’t.
West Virginia isn’t alone in taxing heavy manufacturing equipment – 35 other states do so too. Neighboring Ohio just eliminated its heavy equipment tax, and what did it get in return? The elimination of 28,000 Ohio manufacturing jobs due to added machines–which became cheaper to own–replacing Ohio workers.
This particular proposal will only benefit the larger corporations and ignores all other businesses. Like most of the Legislature’s so-called “business-friendly” efforts geared toward “hooking that big fish,” it would do little to put West Virginians first. If we are going to hand out tax dollars, we must focus on our small businesses that employ hardworking Mountaineers. We must focus on making West Virginia a place where working families can thrive–not just survive.
We have a choice: continue to cut taxes that benefit a small number of large companies that could care less about us, or choose to invest in all West Virginians. We could do a lot with $100 million every year. Why not try something that puts West Virginians first?