Four Huntington Council Members Disappointed by Proposed Legislative Amendment

by Tony Rutherford HuntingtonNews.Net Reporter
Four Huntington Council Members Disappointed by Proposed Legislative Amendment

HUNTINGTON, WV (HNN) – A proposal by Del. Jim Morgan (D-Cabell) which would amend home rule programs to require referendums on tax levies has at least four Huntington City Council members disappointed.

However, former delegate Steve Williams , council finance chairman, asserts bills are not designed to make it through the legislature.

Thus Williams summations for Huntington tax reform supporters is don’t abandon hope or prepare to cast your vote. The bill and amendment has numerous hoops to jump , first in the House, then in the Senate.

Ironically, city residents would vote on tax proposals, which still leaves those working in the city but living outside its boundaries to pursue their taxation without representation argument.

The amendment to the Home Rule Pilot authorizations states: ”A pilot municipality may not adopt any ordinance, rule, regulation or resolution or take any action which would alter the municipality’s tax structure or authority without submitting the issue to the voters of that municipality to approve the change. This requirement applies to a current participating municipality seeking an amendment to a plan and to future applicants; (HB 3030)

The bill which also increases the number of municipalities that may participate in the “Pilot Home Rule Program,” cleared the Political Subdivisions Committee and moves to the Judiciary Committee. The original has eleven sponsors; none of them are from Cabell County.

Huntington Council vice chairperson Sandra Clements said when people in her district “talk about paving streets and fixing things in the city, they don’t want to pay more taxes, but they understood why we need the tax. For people who work outside the city , they were upset and I don't know that we can reason with them."

She’s “not happy” with the amendment which is directed squarely at Huntington’s tax reforms.

Council chairman Mark Bates expressed his disfavor with the Jim Morgan amendment. “The whole premise behind home rule is to give cities way to govern.” Applying Morgan’s referendum premise in a “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander” manner, he succinctly suggested, “any tax added by the [West Virginia] legislature should be voted on by every person in this state.”

Former council chair Jim Insco seemed perplexed by the possible action by legislators.

“At one point they wanted to allow cities to have the opportunities  to explore, to try different avenues,  to improve parts of cities, then, because they caught grief [on one part], now they are ready to abandon it. I think the Home Rule Pilot Project [succeeded] for all four cities that participated. You can’t say it’s a failure when in less three years, the legislature has passed two laws statewide --- The insurance bill and the dilapidated structure bill --- Let us continue. There’s no one who can say the tax structure in our state works. If it worked, the state would be filled with booming businesses. It does not work.  Allow the cities to try something new and see what happens.”

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