Steve Williams: Wouldn't They Be Surprised if We Passed It?

by Tony Rutherford , HNN Entertainment Editor
Steve Williams: Wouldn't They Be Surprised if We Passed It?

Editor’s Note: At large councilman Steve Williams, a former member of the House of Delegates is one of the architects with fellow council members of Huntington’s  tax reform package.  It  includes the much opposed occupation tax along with a one percent city sale tax and gradual reduction in city B & O taxes.

In fact, on a positive note, Williams said that the amendment has re-opened dialogue with the city's legislative delegation, which is a good thing.

HNN: What are your thoughts on the proposed amendment applied to the Home Rule Pilot Program that would mandate a vote on enactment of tax issues?  

WILLIAMS: I’m disappointed in what Del. Morgan proposed. This well intentioned proposal does not look deep enough. Specifically, if [the occupation tax] was all that would be implemented, the referendum proposal might have legs. But, the language contains tax incentives that restructure our tax system to be helpful in developing jobs and investing in the community. 

Oddly enough, they are looking at the Mayor’s original proposal. Council came back and started getting rid of B & O taxes.  Everybody who spoke in opposition spoke against the occupation tax. Not a soul said anything about B & O taxes. Some people said , ‘We can accept a sales tax.’ 

The way I read the amendment, we will have to take all [the reforms] to the voters… and from my meetings with neighborhood associations, would not they be surprised if the people in the city passed it?

HNN: You believe that the people spoke in 2008 by electing this eleven member council…

WILLIAMS: In my opinion, the voter’s election of us [to council] is the referendum. In 2012, if the voters do not like what we have done, the referendum will be each of us, and, the voters will put somebody in our place to reverse what we have done. In the meantime, we might put a policy in place that given time, works. Folks would a couple of years later turn around and say ‘there was wisdom in that insanity.’

 HNN: Since you are a former legislator, what do you think of the chances of both houses passing the referendum amendment?

WILLIAMS: It’s a concern. It’s already through Political Subdivisions. It has to go through judiciary. There are several steps to go. The process is  not designed to enable the passage of legislation. That’s the good thing. In the judiciary , there will be a sub-committee , then passing through the entire judiciary committee, and then the House amendment stage, by the time it gets on the agenda in the House the Rules Committee will determine if it comes up for a vote. It has a lot of steps to go through to get out of the House [of Delegates], then, it has to go to the Senate and go through two additional committees. The Senate has a companion bill. My guess is senator’s will do a ‘strike and insert’ amendment --- they take everything after the enacting clause and insert their bill. All of a sudden you have two totally different bills. It has to go through the whole process in the Senate, and, then  , you have a conference committee, where it has to be passed by both….

HNN: Sounds like it  still has a lot of hurdles ....

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