This week from Charleston
The 2014 general election is over, and I am gratified to represent the 67th district for another term. With a new majority, I look forward to working across the aisle on issues that benefit West Virginia and Jefferson County. I also will not hesitate to stand up on issues on which we disagree.
One issue on which I generally agree with the GOP is tax reform. We have serious structural problems with taxation in West Virginia that act as disincentives for businesses. This includes the business inventory tax. This tax requires even small business to pay a tax on their inventory. It is a disincentive to buy a larger inventory or make larger investments in equipment.
This tax should go. However, we must find a way to pay for it. One of the places we could find savings is in the subsidies for big businesses that do not create net benefits. Right now, taxpayers subsidize businesses like the Macy’s distribution center in Martinsburg. While we do subsidize Macy’s, we do not subsidize our downtown retail in the same way. Ironically, Macy’s is in competition with our own bricks and mortar downtown retail stores.
One issue which now greatly concerns me is the use of West Virginia thoroughbred purse to plug budget holes. Right now, gaming revenues are taxed at an over 50 percent tax rate. A portion of those taxes–over $80 million— are redirected into thoroughbred racing purses devoted to West Virginia-raised thoroughbreds. The vast majority of these taxes come from Jefferson County and the majority of the purses go to races at Charles Town. All of this is now in jeopardy.
One of my colleagues in the new majority in the Senate tweeted out last week that the purse “subsidy” should be cut. That is the last thing that should happen. We are already losing revenue because of competition in Maryland. This would add insult to injury. Racing and gaming in Jefferson County are already providing hundreds of millions of dollars to the rest of the state. These purse funds are not abstractly going into the economy of Jefferson County.
These funds go directly into farming operations and help keep our green space protected and agriculture a thriving industry. Jefferson County should not be the piggy bank for the state.
It remains to be seen what the legislative agenda will be, but I hope that the new majority will join me in promoting the hospitality and tourism industry. We need to do more than just focus on coal. We need to work on removing barriers in a diversified economy.