For most of West Virginia’s history, state officials kept a tight leash on local government bodies’ taxation powers. Then, a few years ago, came the municipal home rule “experiment.” It was sold as a “pilot program” — but there can be no doubt it will be permanent.
One could almost see county officials turning green with envy that many of their counterparts in towns and cities were being given increased taxing authority. Many cities, including some in our area, reacted by establishing sales taxes on goods and services sold within their limits.
Now, some legislators think it would be an excellent idea to give county commissioners the same “flexibility.”
State Senate Bill 49, introduced by Sens. Chandler Swope, R-Mercer, and Rollan Roberts, R-Raleigh, would permit county commissions to establish 1% sales taxes. They could not be collected inside municipalities with their own sales taxes.
There are other bills intended to give county commissioners more taxing authority. One, SB 80, would permit counties to collect taxes “upon any public amusement or entertainment conducted within the limits of the county for private profit or gain.” It was sponsored by Sen. Randy Smith, R-Tucker.
Mountain State residents need a number of things from state government. Authority for local entities to levy new taxes is not one of them.
Some state legislators are determined — and rightly so — to make the state more appealing to job-creating businesses. One way to do that is to lessen the tax burden on private enterprise.
But doing that while at the same time making taxes more onerous on individuals and families makes no sense. Solely from an economic development standpoint, it is counterproductive. People who have less money to spend do not create an inviting business climate.
Legislators should shelve and forget SB 49, SB 80 and other avenues leading toward higher taxation by local governments in West Virginia.