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Senate Leaders Call On Justice To Include Them In Amendment 2 Public Forums

Blair and Tarr - October 12 2021.jpg
Will Price
/
WV Legislative Photography
Senate President Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, (right) stands next to Senate Finance Chair Eric Tarr, R-Putnam, (left) at the podium in the West Virginia Senate chamber on Oct. 12, 2021.

Senate President Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, and Finance Committee Chair Sen. Eric Tarr, R-Putnam, say they need to participate in Gov. Jim Justice’s “community conversation” public forums on Amendment 2.

The proposed constitutional amendment would give the legislature authority to regulate property taxes. It is one of four amendments on the Nov. 8 ballot.

“There's misinformation that's been passed on in those forums that is just inaccurate,” Blair said. “If we did the forum together, they can make their argument against Amendment 2, we can make our argument for the amendment and let the public know what the real answers are.”

Blair said the amendment doesn’t do away with any taxes and Justice's claim that business and inventory taxes only benefit corporations is false.

“Seventy percent of state business is made up of small West Virginia businesses and they pay taxes on their equipment and inventory, machinery and their vehicles, regardless of their annual sales or the profits,” Blair said. “Another Justice argument completely disregards the fact that there's a pile of agreements out there that make it so that the large corporations are already exempt from business and inventory taxes.”

Blair said the Senate Finance Committee’s property tax regulation plan, which is still subject to revision, details how West Virginia county governments, schools and services will actually get more funding, not less. He said this proposal is far from a state power grab.

“We're doing it transparently so that they can see what we're talking about up front. But it still has to go through the legislative process and everything can be adjusted,” Blair said. “We're partners, we're partners with the counties, we're partners with the local school boards, we're partners with municipalities. They have been on the decline for a long time — but our state government, we've got that right sized and it's working well.”

In response to the call for public debate, Justice said that when Blair and Tarr were presenting their plan around the state, he wasn't invited.

“I'm not looking for a food fight,” Justice said. “I'm not looking for a debate. I'm looking for the fact that I have not presented the other side. All I need to do is peacefully present my side and then let the people decide. And whatever they decide I'll be all in.”

Government Reporter, ryohe@wvpublic.org, 304-634-8123

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