Current Essay

INSIDE WV TAXES

Recent History, Future and Scope of Tax Reform in West Virginia

Reprinted by Permission, from Tax Notes: State, Nov. 25, 2019, pp. 641-648

By Michael E. Caryl

Introduction

          As the 2020 Regular Session of the West Virginia Legislature approaches, attention to some degree of tax reform is growing. [1]   At the heart of most discussions of the subject is a strong interest in eliminating the property tax on business inventory and equipment which has long been perceived to be a major hindrance to the State’s economic competitiveness.  The legal and political challenges of effecting such reform are based in part on the constitutionally-embedded imposition of that tax and on the near-exclusive budgetary reliance on the revenues it generates (along with the tax on real property) by local non-educational government units.  Moreover, even though the funding of public education in West Virginia predominately comes from the state’s general fund, approximately one-quarter of that funding also relies on locally-imposed real and personal property tax revenues.

            First, to legally achieve the desired relief, two-thirds of the members of each of the two houses  of the Legislature would have to adopt a resolution putting the constitutional amendment on the ballot and, then, a majority voters on the question would have to approve it.[2]   Moreover, as a practical matter, to achieve that reform politically, not only must it receive a majority of the popular vote, but, to gain the support and avoid the active opposition of local government officials, some guarantee of replacement revenues will need to be included in the reform package.   At this point, however, there does not yet appear to be a consensus among legislative leaders as to the best way to achieve either of those acknowledged prerequisites.

            Chief among the variables in the several reform proposals are both the scope and specificity of the property tax relief.  There is also the question of whether the guarantee of replacement revenues should be expressly granted in the constitutional amendment itself, instead of simply authorizing the legislative power to then subsequently effect those remedies by general law.   For example, some advocate limiting the relief to only the property taxes exposure of manufacturing entities, while others call for exempting all tangible personal property – specifically including individuals’ motor vehicles.[3]  The latter, of course, would require a far greater amount of replacement revenues, but would, on the other hand, greatly increase the prospects of strong voter support of the amendment. 

            Regardless of the quantitative scope of the relief, some phase-in measures and fiscal milestones (a/k/a “triggers”) would likely be part of its implementation.  However, to the extent that broader, and more comprehensive, reform of the State’s tax structure is, as some others advocate, to be concurrently pursued, the specific structure of the same is, at this late date, still insufficiently designed to enable the necessary economic impact studies which any meaningful scope of reform requires. Now decades’ old but unsuccessful comprehensive tax reform proposals were supported by econometric studies revealing the optimum mechanics of phase-ins,  expected levels and timing of revenue goal milestones, nature of the resulting burden-shifting, etc.[4] 

            Absent such refinements, the most likely form of relief will be the narrowest version of it for which the Legislature can confidently satisfy the understandable needs of the local government “expenditure community” that replacement revenues are guaranteed.  In assessing the prospects of whether, and what degree of, tax reform may be enacted in the upcoming legislative session, the substantive basis of the long-standing impetus for reform, and the specific process and design of earlier reform efforts, both bear more detailed description and understanding.

            The Need for, and Recent History of, Tax Reform Efforts in West Virginia

            U.S. Census Bureau data shows that West Virginia is consistently in the lowest five states in medium family income,  and is one of only three states with declining population over the past decade.[5]  Thus, it should be no surprise that, as the Tax Policy Center of the Urban Institute/Brookings Institute Joint Venture shows, by a large margin, the state ranks highest in the 12-state Southeastern region in state and local tax taxes collected as a percent of that income.[6] Indeed, West Virginia’s level of state and local taxation, as a percentage of income, is 18 percent higher than the regional average and even 5 percent higher than the second-highest state in the region (Mississippi).[7]  The 10.6 percent overall tax burden the state’s modest collective income bears is also higher than that of each of its five  immediately adjacent states by an average of nearly 10 percent.[8]

            According to Ernst & Young’s October 2019 survey (“Total State and Local Business Taxes”), West Virginia’s Total Effective Business Tax Rate (TEBTR), which compares total state and local taxes imposed on business with a state’s gross private sector economic output, is the sixth highest in the USA and higher than all five of its immediately neighboring states by an average of over 40 percent.[9]   That same study shows that currently West Virginia is tied for having the United States’ sixth-highest ratio of business taxes to government spending that immediately benefits business (assuming a uniform portion of public education expenditures).[10] 

            Further, the Tax Foundation’s October, 2015 presentation to the Legislature’s Select Joint Committee on Tax Reform[11] reported that, in West Virginia, the portion of total state and local taxes represented by tangible personal property taxes (including those on motor vehicles) was more than double the national average.[12] However, these are only the most recent revelations of the persistent and highly correlated co-existence of a heavy tax burden and lagging economic outcomes.

            Understandably, then, from at least as long ago as the mid-1980s, the issue of reforming West Virginia’s 1930s-inspired tax structure has been the subject of extensive official study and discussion.[13] Since then, though a few major changes were adopted, there remains a general consensus that much more needs to be done to make the state’s tax structure competitive.  

            Indeed, one manifestation of the need for tax reform is the fact that virtually every major new industrial capital investment in West Virginia, made in the last several decades, was dependent on, and induced by, some contrived (winner-picking) state and local tax relief package. These took the forms of investment tax credits, public/private sale/leasebacks (along with “payment-in-lieu-of-tax” or “PILOT” arrangements) and “salvage value” property tax rules.[14] In other words, new, job-creating investments in West Virginia businesses are not likely be made if they are initially subject to the primary features of the state’s business tax structure.

             Beyond its shortcomings in terms of economic competitiveness, the state’s current property tax structure is also highly regressive for many individuals, uncommonly restrictive on local government and effectively denies due process to businesses.[15]

             Although proposals to reduce and repeal the tax on tangible personal property would require an amendment to the state’s constitution, that could easily be justified as reconfirming one of the primary original purposes of the state’s charter.  The amendment would remove particular provisions that are directly inconsistent with the broad degree of flexibility that the founders expressed, as economic benefit of the people.[16] 

             Moreover, a consideration of recent legislative efforts in terms of overall policy does offer some encouragement.  Foremost, among the major recent fiscal policy achievements of the West Virginia Legislature, in both 2018 and 2019 were the back-to-back historic achievements of: (1) enacting, for the first times in over three decades, a general fund budget within the sixty-day regular session; (2) approving the most significant pay raises in many years for public school teachers, service personnel and other state employees and (3) doing so without increasing general fund taxes.    Admittedly, however, one major consequence of those achievements was to just propose, but continue to defer, action on long-discussed state and local tax reform.

             Specifically, during both the 2018 and 2019 legislative sessions, the primary tax reform proposals consisted of  two separate initiatives to phase-in exemptions of tax on business tangible personal property such as machinery, equipment and inventory.  The policy impetus for those proposals was the above-described concern that, by being one of the few states which imposed property tax on business inventories at all, West Virginia’s tax structure put it at a severe competitive disadvantage.

             The more broadly supported of those two proposals in both sessions was also the more substantively narrow of them.  Specifically, it proposed to amend the state’s constitution to phase-out the property tax on the machinery, equipment and inventory of only manufacturers.[17]  The other, broader proposals, would have extended such an exemption to all industries, including retailers.[18]  In both initiatives, however, the Legislature was required to provide alternative revenue sources to local government bodies replacing those lost due to the exemptions.  

            The proponents of the narrower version were confident that the then-emerging, modestly upward trend in state general fund revenues could (in part, stimulated by the exemptions) enable the Legislature to offset the local property tax revenues lost through the exemptions.  Since then, due to the vagaries of natural resource commodity prices and the temporary, sometimes interrupted nature of revenues associated with both highway and pipeline construction, confidence in the certainty of such tax base growth has understandably receded in the face of downwardly revised state income data.[19]

            The scope of both years’ proposals also fell far short of the much broader exemption proposed in the 2017 special legislative session, to-wit:  Senate Joint Resolution 8, which would have phased out the property tax on nearly all tangible personal property, including all motor vehicles, whether owned by individuals or businesses.  Unfortunately, to offset the far larger revenue loss it would cause, SJR 8 was written so as to significantly increase real property taxes on both businesses and many individuals.[20]  

            Beyond the obvious political drawbacks of such an approach, it was not directly coordinated with, and it failed to objectively measure, the replacement revenue potential of economic growth stimulated by the concurrently, but separately, proposed reforms of major elements of the state’s general fund tax system.  Thus, those more comprehensive tax system reform proposals contemplated, not only the phased-in personal property tax repeal, but a gradual replacement of the personal income tax with revenues from both a major broadening of the sales and use taxes’ base and an increase in the rates of those taxes.[21]  Unfortunately, after those broader measures failed in 2017, legislative leaders appeared to have lost their appetite to try them again.

            In all events, structural state and local tax reform inherently requires policy makers to proceed deliberately in a constructive, creative, well-informed and objective manner through a series of steps.  Those steps are: (1) design a reformed structure based on consensus policy objectives and a multi-year, performance-based phase-in; (2) engage independent experts to apply today’s most sophisticated econometric modeling tools  to the end of projecting the economic impact, revenue yield and burden shifts that the new structure can be expected to produce; and (3) before formal legislative activity, educate and engage with all stakeholders both about the policy rationales of the restructured system and the results of those studies.

            While there are well-developed, detailed and substantive concepts already on the public policy table in West Virginia, awaiting serious consideration,[22] until political leaders actually take that first step, the longer timelines for the second and third steps cannot even begin.  Fortunately, the second stage, while critically important, could, once commenced, not consume anywhere near the amount of  time the multiple public meetings, presentations, etc.  the extended proceedings of the 2015-2016 Select Joint Committee on Tax Reform took.[23]  Indeed, because the third step would be far less open-ended, even public airing of a fully-designed and objectively-tested proposal should not require more than a fraction of the time consumed by those earlier proceedings. 

            However, that we should not expect, in the imminent 2020 legislative session, that broader approach to tax reform, or even a repeat of the more limited effort involving some degree of tangible personal property tax relief for certain businesses, has become more apparent as each week has gone by without serious progress along the path to either.  Of course, as noted above, a broadly written amendment simply giving the Legislature the authority to later enact more comprehensive tax reform measures, could, then enable the more deliberate and better informed process needed for meaningful tax reform.[24]

           On the bright side, given the other remarkable achievements of the Legislature in 2018 and 2019, nothing, including comprehensive tax reform, should be seen as inherently beyond its demonstrated capacity for making major fiscal policy progress.  On that optimistic note, among the currently floating tax reform proposals is the following example that this author has put forth in several contexts. [25]  

A Blueprint for West Virginia Tax Reform

            To address the narrow objects of achieving tangible personal property tax relief to both promote economic development and to somewhat mitigate the regressive nature of individual taxes (thus enhancing the prospects for voter support), the state’s constitution could be amended, to at least make the following changes:

             a.         Immediately repeal the property tax on motor vehicles.

             b.         Phase out, based on identified other revenue triggers, the existing tax on all other             tangible personal property (except public utility property) and, thereafter, only impose property    tax on real property interests defined as such in the common law of property including chattels real[26] and on all public utility property.

             c.         Require the Legislature to fully fund current expenses (regular levy) for  K-12 public education at the constitutionally-mandated “thorough and efficient” standard (to be exclusively defined by the legislature), and to do so by equalized block grants to counties based on student population.[27]  With the phasing out of taxes on personal property, the Legislature would have to use the general fund for all K-12 public education expenditures. The shortfall in general fund would in turn be made up by economic stimulus and base broadening achieved through the other measures proposed here.

             d.         Give counties and municipalities exclusive authority over the regular levy real estate/public utility property tax base, which should be ample to replace the tax revenues from non-chattels real personal property.[28]

             e.         Re-designate as the “state’s share” the local school, county, and municipal bond and special levies in existence at the time of the ratification of the constitutional amendment and imposed on real estate/public utility property, which would be collected and distributed by the state for the benefit of those levying bodies until the levies expire under their present terms. Thus, if needed, due to the interplay in a particular county, between the relative values of taxable and newly exempt property, and/or due to the annual obligations of such pre-existing bond and/or special levies, for specific school, county and/or municipalities, re-allocation and  re-direction of portions of the $402 million in such revenue (shown in footnote 28), would be authorized for that purpose.

              f.          Require the Legislature to make whole through tax base capacity (but not in actually budgeted state revenue) any given levying body if the foregoing reallocated revenues do not satisfy existing obligations.  To that end, the current rule, limiting the ratio of assessed value to fair market value to 60 percent, would be retained, but, during the phase-out period, the Legislature could, by general law, authorize any county or municipality to seek voter approval to temporarily raise that ratio to up to as much as 100 percent if necessary to maintain its tax base capacity at the pre-repeal level.  Thereafter, the statewide assessment ratio could only be raised statewide (up to 100 percent) by a super-majority vote of three-fifths (3/5) in both houses of the Legislature.

              g.         Grandfather the real estate/public utility property tax base and pledge the state’s credit to guarantee payment of unpaid balances on all levying bodies’ existing bond and special levies.

              h.         Retain authority of local school boards, counties and municipalities to seek voter approval for the issuance of future bond and special levies payable from real estate/public utility property taxes.

              i.          Authorize the Legislature to establish maximum property tax rates to be levied by counties and municipalities for three property classifications, to-wit:  (A): residential (both owner and tenant-occupied), farms and managed timberland; (B):  all other real estate outside of a municipality and (C): all other real estate within a municipality, which rates must always bear the relative numerical ratios among them of 1(A) to 1.5(B) to 2(C).

              The other related broader aspects of the constitutional amendment would:

              a.         Grandfather all state and local tax investment credits, exemptions, valuation discounts and sale/leaseback (PILOT) arrangements, which taxpayers earned or on which they relied in making existing in-use investments.

              b.         Require a three-fifths (3/5) super majority vote in both houses of the Legislature to enact legislation providing any future investment tax incentives.

              c.         Preserve all existing municipal taxing authority (except tax on tangible personal property after full repeal and phase-out) and empower the Legislature to provide additional authority to both municipalities and counties to impose consumption and excise taxes which are equal and uniform within each county.

              d.         Require the Legislature to establish an independent, quasi-judicial body, which is not controlled by any levying body, to review challenges to assessments of both property taxes and other local government taxes.[29]

              e.         Require a three-fifths (3/5) super majority vote in both houses of the Legislature to enact any new tax that does not exist on the date of ratification.

              f.          Require the Legislature to assure that the statutory rates and application of each state-imposed tax is equal and uniform throughout the state, that all similarly-situated taxpayers are taxed equally and that the rates of all state-imposed taxes have the same numerical ratio to each other as they have at the time of ratification of the amendment and in subsequent enactments. 

              g.         Require that any government charges denominated as “fees” be imposed on the basis of a fixed statutory dollar amount and not as a percentage of any other measure.

Conclusion

              Because taxation involves the most profound and complex interaction of governmental functions with voluntary human economic behavior, there is nothing the legislators can do to have a greater long-term beneficial impact on the lives of West Virginians than to adopt well-considered, comprehensive tax reform.  To do that, they must think outside the box of poverty in which the state’s people have been entrapped for at least a half a century.  The reflexive defenders of this bleak status quo must open their minds to give progress and prosperity a chance.  Only then, will West Virginia cease to be an island of poverty in a sea of prosperity.

              However, in the absence of near-term action toward broader reform, the question will also become whether, even if the more limited reform is soon pursued and achieved, it represents a small, but important first step in the right direction, or if, instead, the policy makers simply conclude that they have, thus, checked the far larger tax reform box on the list of actions needed to make West Virginia economically competitive.  Of course, in public policy as in warfare, you should strive to win the next battle before you can even claim, much less actually experience, the ultimate success, whether it is defeat of the enemy or the economic liberation of a sovereign state. 

 

 

 

 

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[1]   This article updates and elaborates on reports about West Virginia tax reform contained in earlier Inside West Virginia Taxes articles.

[2]   W.Va. Const. Art. XIV, section 2.

[3]   The appreciation for the critical economic role of manufacturing (and the economic disincentive on manufacturing investment that the property tax on inventory plays) is already manifested in a provision, among others, which allows a credit against a manufacturers’ liability for corporation net income tax in the amount of property tax paid on its inventory. W.Va. Code section 11-13Q-1 et seq.  While that tax relief is limited to those manufacturers which have reportable profits to tax, it is in addition to the direct property tax relief in the “Freeport Amendment” of the state’s constitution which exempts for all businesses whose inventory is treated as moving in interstate commerce (including manufacturers’ finished goods which are destined for out-of-state markets).  W.Va. Const. Art. X, section1c; W.Va. Code section11-5-13a(b).  See also infra note 14.

[4]   E.g. Executive Report of The Governor’s Commission on Fair Taxation, issued January, 1999. Infra. note 13.  Note: Of course, if a constitutional amendment would simply authorize the Legislature to enact specific tax reform measures (instead of expressly dictating the details of any such relief), that would enable the lawmakers to pursue the more orderly and informed approach to designing and implementing meaningful tax reform of even the broadest scale.

[5]   IRS, Winter 2019, Statistics of Income; and U.S. Census Bureau, “State Population Change: 2010-2018.” Note: A recent burst of optimism about the state having the highest rate of income growth in the first quarter of 2019 in the US (5.6 percent), was suddenly crushed by the cold reality that, when the U.S. Dept. of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis subsequently revised its report, it showed that, in fact, West Virginia’s rate of personal income growth for that period was actually less than one-third of that originally reported (1.5 percent), returning its ranking to the familiar level of 47th among all states.

[6]   Data from U.S. Census Bureau, “Annual Survey of State and Local Government Finances,” Vol. 4. (2016) and “Census of Governments” (2016).

[7]  Annual Survey, id.

[8]   Ohio (9.9 percent), Pennsylvania (9.8 percent), Maryland (10.3 percent), Virginia (8.6 percent) and Kentucky (9.7 percent). Annual Survey, id.

[9]   Published by Council on State Taxation (COST) and State Tax Research Institute, at 12 (Oct. 2019).  Note: The total effective business tax rate measure is acknowledged to somewhat understate differences in economic competitiveness where the mix of state and local business taxes is disproportionately reliant on such origin-based taxes as those on property. Since West Virginia’s locally-imposed property tax on business assets is 50 percent higher than the national average in terms of percentage of local taxes imposed, that would reinforce the concern that such a system is a major contributor to the state’s poor economic outcomes. Id. at 11-14.   Note:  Although as acknowledged below, The Tax Foundation has been (and continues to be) actively involved in providing policy-makers with expert state and local tax reform input, its own far more favorable rankings of West Virginia’s business tax climate (typically just above mid-way on the list), reflects, among other factors, its heavy positive weighting of broad sales and use tax exemptions for business-to-business purchases as to which the state’s system is relatively generous.  See, “2020 State Business Tax Climate Index,” The Tax Foundation, Oct. 22, 2019.

[10]  COST report, id. at 17. Note:  Those rankings are based on circumstances existent after the relatively recent phase-out of the state’s business franchise tax on private business capital [2006-2014] and phased-in reductions of its corporation net income tax rate [from 9.75 percent in 1987 down to 6.5 percent starting in 2014].

 

[11]   The committee was established by a joint resolution of the 2015 legislature.  It met as an interim committee of the legislature on a monthly basis for the better part of 2015, and, following the 2016 regular session, through a subcommittee in each house, on into 2016.  Unfortunately, despite the input of many national tax policy experts (e.g. The Tax Foundation), not to mention that of many state level stakeholder organizations, the Committee’s activities concluded without making any actionable substantive recommendations for tax reform. 

 

[12]  Jared Walczak  “Reforming West Virginia’s Tangible Personal Property Tax,” The Tax Foundation, Oct. 5, 2015. Note:  It appears that the report, which accompanied Mr. Walczak’s presentation, may have included, in tangible personal property tax revenues, the quite significant portion of the same in several counties which represent taxes imposed on so-called working interests in underground natural gas reserves.  Such interests, which are treated, under the general law of property, as real estate, are, nonetheless arbitrarily classified as personal property for tax purposes due to a 1997 statutory amendment.  W.Va. Code section 11-3-7a.  Since exemption of such real property interests from taxation is not part of any active reform proposal, the subtraction of the reported revenues generated by taxes on such interests, from the amounts which would need to be replaced, would be necessary to the efficacy of any proposal to otherwise exempt non-utility tangible personal property.  For example, one version of such reform proposals summarized below expressly makes such an adjustment in its analysis.  See, A Blueprint for West Virginia Tax Reform, para. b of this article.

[13]   For example, The Final Report of the West Virginia Tax Study Commission, issued in March, 1984, led to legislation that entirely replaced the business and occupation tax (on gross receipts at rates that varied widely by industry) as the primary feature of the state’s tax system with a combination of a new business franchise tax (on business capital) and a significant increase in the rate of the corporation income tax (from 7 percent to 9.75 percent).  At the same time, there was a lowering and compression of the graduated rates of the personal income tax (from 18 brackets with a high rate of 13 percent to 5 brackets with a maximum rate of 6.5 percent).

In January, 1999, The Governor’s Commission on Fair Taxation called for an even more comprehensive reform of the state’s tax structure by phasing out all of the personal property tax (except on public utility property), further compressing the personal income tax into only two brackets and, most significantly, replacing the corporation income tax with a version of Michigan’s former Single Business Tax (essentially an addition-method value-added tax).  Of course, none of those recommendations were enacted. 

Finally, the 2006 West Virginia Tax Modernization Project was known primarily, in addition its penchant for fine-tuning specific details of a myriad of taxes, for its acknowledgement that the combination of both the business franchise tax on business capital and a relatively high rate of tax on corporation income put the state at a significant competitive disadvantage.  However, the 2006 proposal only called for relatively modest one-time reductions in the rates of those two taxes, which, fortunately was, as noted above (note 10) later extended to a phased-out repeal of the franchise tax and a more significant reduction in the rate of the corporation income tax. 

See also, generally, Robin C. Capehart’s “Real Tax Reform for West Virginia,” Public Policy Institute of West Virginia (2009).

[14]   E.g. W.Va. Code section 11-6F-3, which, for property tax purposes, allows a 95 percent discount of the original cost of a manufacturer’s “certified capital addition” under the utterly non-sensical and objectively inapplicable statutory fiction that the taxable 5 percent of brand-new capital assets are their salvage value.

[15]   Not only is the state’s property tax on motor vehicles in a low-income, rural state inherently regressive, but embedded in the state’s constitution is a graduated rate structure for the imposition of property taxes on residential property which requires that those who can only afford to rent their homes are (through the rent they pay to their landlords) taxed at the commercial rate which is double the rate imposed on owner-occupied homes. W.Va. Const. Art. X, Sec. 1.  The institutional bias against business property owners, in disputed property tax valuation matters, is extensively documented in two recent articles: Michael E. Caryl, “Court Leaves Uncertainty in Business Property Taxation,” Tax Notes State, Aug. 5, 2019, p.501, notes 5, 44 and 45; also Caryl, “Roiled State Supreme Court to Review Taxation of Major Industry,” State Tax Notes, Nov. 19, 2018, p. 691, notes 4 and 45.

[16]  Thus, in Article XII of the West Virginia Constitution, dealing with Education, it provides that “The legislature shall provide support of free schools … by general taxation of persons and property or otherwise … It shall also provide for raising in each county or district, by authority of the people thereof, such a proportion of the amount required for the support of free schools as shall be prescribed by general law.”  Art. 12, section 5. (emphasis added).  Further, in Article X, Taxation and Finance, the Constitution also provides that “The legislature may impose a state tax or taxes or dedicate a state tax or taxes or any portion thereof to be distributed to such counties, municipalities or other political subdivisions … under such circumstances and subject to such terms, conditions and restrictions as the legislature may prescribe by law.” Art. 10, section 6a(2).  (emphasis added).

 

[17]   In 2018, Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 9, and its identical House version, House Joint Resolution (HJR) 106, would also would have exempted the inventory and tangible personal property of natural resource producers. In 2019,  companion measures requested by the Governor, SJR 11 and HJR 23, would have limited the exemptions to the manufacturing industry. 

[18]  HJR 102 in 2018 and HJR 17 in 2019.

[19]   Supra note 5.   

[20]   Although, in that 2017 proposal, the maximum nominal rates of taxation would have been retained or even lowered for some classifications of property, by eliminating the current constitution taxable assessment limit of 60 percent of market value, the real property tax base would have been increased by two thirds (to 100 percent of market value).  SJR 8, Introduced March 17, 2017.  Amendments to SJR 8, later in the legislative process, would have capped the real estate tax assessment at 75 percentof fair market value, and would have given local levying bodies the option to tax a lower portion of real estate value.  In addition, the proposal would have authorized such bodies to prospectively raise the rate of real estate tax assessment above 75 percent (up to 100 percent) for up to three years if approved by a 60 percent vote of their constituents. 

  

[21]   E.g. The Governor’s Commission on Fair Taxation, supra note 13.

[22]   E.g., Caryl,  “The Fair 55 Tax Reform Plan for West Virginia,”  Public Policy Institute of West Virginia (2016)

[23]   Supra note 11.

[24]   Supra  note 4,

[25]   Adopted from Caryl’s “The Why and How of Personal Property Tax Repeal and Real Property Tax Reform in West Virginia,” which was originally presented twice in 2017 to separate meetings of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Government and Finance, and of the West Virginia Association of Counties.

[26]   See supra note 12.

[27]   To preserve the legislative flexibility clearly intended by the above-quoted constitutional provisions, the language of the proposed amendment in this ratable per pupil funding rule should expressly allow the establishment of a minimum per county dollar amount of such funding as authorized in recent legislation protecting smaller counties’ school budget needs, as is  now authorized as a part of major public education funding reform. W.Va. Code section 18-9A-2(i)(5) amended as a part of HB 206, enacted in the First Extraordinary 2019 Session on June 24, 2019.

[28]    In Tax Year 2018, taxes from non-chattels real personal property represented approximately 26 percent of all property tax collections ($524 million total minus an estimated $80 million from chattels real property = $444 million, which, if divided by total property tax collections of $1.715 billion = 26 percent), thus, making non-school levying bodies’ total revenue from non-chattels real personal property taxes = $155 million (0.26 X $595 billion), and schools’ special/bond levy revenue from non-chattels real personal property taxes = $146 million (0.26 X $562 million), for a total of tax revenue to be replaced of $301 million.  Comparing that sum to the reallocated remaining regular levy real estate/public utility property taxes (levied by the schools) which equals $413 million (0.74 X $558 million), it is clear that statewide there will be sufficient revenues remaining in the reformed system to cover those obligations.  W. Va. Tax Department, “Classified Assessed Valuations Taxes Levied, 2018 Tax Year Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 2019.”

[29]   See supra note 15.

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