The battle over property taxes and education in the Mountain State has intensified as Election Day nears.
Opponents of Amendments 2 and 4 have argued that funding for public services and local control over education are at stake. West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy executive director Kelly Allen said Amendment 2 would result in a $515 million loss in state revenue by slashing property taxes on vehicles and equipment used for businesses. She noted that property taxes overwhelmingly are used to fund public schools, fire and police departments, libraries and other public services.
Lawmakers have insisted the move would attract more companies to West Virginia, but Allen disagreed.
“In fact, reducing funding for schools and fire departments and emergency responders could actually eliminate local jobs,” she said, “and it could make our communities less safe, less of a good place for workers and businesses to locate – and could instead have the opposite impact.”
Gov. Jim Justice has publicly opposed Amendment 2, arguing it would eliminate the possibility of income-tax cuts for West Virginians. His office said the state is sitting on a revenue surplus of more than $1.3 billion.
Early voting begins next Wednesday. Information about polling locations and hours is online at govotewv.com.
Allen pointed out that major corporations stand to gain the most from business-related property taxes.
“Over 70% of the tax cuts that could potentially be enacted as part of Amendment 2 would go to businesses,” she said, “many of them big businesses that are headquartered out of state.”
Amendment 4 would require curriculum changes and other education policy decisions made by the State Board of Education to receive final approval by the state Legislature. Allen said she thinks communities, not lawmakers, should oversee their kids’ education.
“[Amendments] 2 and 4 really present an issue of taking local control away from experts – away from local leaders, away from teachers and parents,” she said, “and giving it to politicians.”
Supporters of Amendment 4 have said it would improve accountability and give voters more say in what is taught in schools.