Gov. Jim Justice sat down with members of the business community to discuss his plan to significantly reduce and then eventually eliminate the income tax in West Virginia.
The members invited to the panel applauded the plan as a way to grow businesses and increase the population of the state. West Virginia is the only state to have seen a population reduction in the past 70 years, which the governor has said this plan will help fix.
“You’re either growing or falling down,” Dave Arnold, a representative of Adventures on the Gorge, said during the panel. The business is an outdoor adventure resort in Lansing.
Arnold said everyone present knows of someone who left the state for a business opportunity. To fix this decline, he said the state needs to do something different, such as this plan.
Steve Farmer, who owns two businesses encouraged state lawmakers to support the plan, which he said could be dynamically game changing. He said the plan would benefit both of his businesses, which combine to employ about 100 people. This plan, Farmer told the panel, should bring all of the state’s business interests together.
The tax relief could also help expand broadband in the state, according to Chris Morris, a representative of the broadband company CityNet. He said the most important way to expand broadband is to grow the population. When more people are living in an area, broadband companies are more incentivized to invest in providing broadband to the region, Morris said.
Justice said the modeling for the plan shows people in all income brackets will pay less taxes overall by the end of the year. Although the plan would increase the sales tax and other consumption taxes, he said those not paying income tax would get a rebate check.
The governor said he’s tried everything to improve West Virginia, such as investments in roads, social security, tourism and making industry more diversified. He said his tax plan will be a large step without damaging or hurting the government.
Republicans have a supermajority in both chambers of the General Assembly and party leaders have voiced support for the plan. Democratic leaders have opposed it.