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Here’s how to get rid of an anti-business tax in WV

The West Virginia State Senate has started work on what may turn out to be the most controversial legislation this session—the effort to get rid of the property tax on manufacturing inventory, machinery and equipment.

This is a burdensome anti-business tax that punishes investment in new equipment and discourages companies from maintaining inventory in the state. The tax makes West Virginia an outlier among the states, but eliminating it won’t be easy.

The tax is in the state Constitution so removing it would require an amendment. Two-thirds of the Senate and House would have to approve the amendment and then voters would have the final say.

The Senate’s 20 Republicans may be able to convince three Democrats to join them, but the House is a heavier lift. The majority GOP would need at least eight Democrats to join their ranks.

And then there’s the issue of lost revenue.

The tax generates about $100 million a year for county governments and public education. Schools get about one-third of the money and they would be made whole through the state school aid formula, but counties would have to depend on the legislature to back-fill their lost dollars.

Additionally, some Republican Senators want to eliminate the property tax on vehicles as well. That would make the budget hole closer to $250 million annually.

For those reasons and more, the Constitutional Amendment approach is a long shot. However, there is another way.

The Justice administration and legislative leaders are talking about an alternative plan which would change the way inventory, machinery and equipment are taxed. Under the proposal, the tax rate would be reduced from 100 percent of appraised value to just five percent, or “salvage value.”

For example, currently a company with $1 million in inventory would probably pay about $15,000 in taxes on that property. Under the salvage rate, the amount would be closer to $750.

Under the proposal, the tax on inventory would phase out over three years beginning July 1, 2021. The estimated $30 million in lost revenue would be made up from the General Revenue Fund and through the school aid formula.

The salvage rate on manufacturing machinery would take effect upon passage of the bill and would be applied only to new equipment, so there would be no lost revenue to make up.

Appraising at salvage rate has been used in West Virginia since the 1970s. The state has applied it to windmills, airplanes, some broadband infrastructure, molds, jigs, templates and patterns used in manufacturing, to give a few examples. But this would be the broadest application to date.

For years, West Virginia has jumped through legal hoops for every major business locating in the state to help it avoid this punitive tax by taking ownership of the property and leasing it back to the operator.

It’s time to end this fiction which, by the way, also discriminates against manufacturers that are trying to make it on their own without the states’ convoluted accounting.

The Constitutional Amendment eliminating the tax would be best, but the political realities being what they are, the salvage rate proposal might be the most practical way to get this done.

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US Supreme Court rejects request to expedite ‘Obamacare’ challenge

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The U.S. Supreme Court will not hear the ongoing legal challenge to former President Barack Obama’s health care law in its current term.

Justices on Tuesday denied a request from Democratic-led states and the U.S. House of Representatives to expedite the legal challenge before the court’s term ends in June. The move pushes a final decision on the law’s future until after the 2020 election.

Five justices are necessary to fast-track a case. The Supreme Court did not release a voting record regarding the matter.

Democratic states and the House asked the court earlier this month to consider a ruling from a federal appellate court; the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in December the law’s individual mandate is unconstitutional after Congress zeroed out the penalty for not purchasing health insurance in the 2017 tax law.

The judges also ordered the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas to determine if the rest of the law is constitutional. Judge Reed O’Connor, who sits on the district court, struck down “Obamacare” in December 2018.

A coalition of Republican states — which includes West Virginia — and the U.S. Justice Department argued against expediting the case, noting no looming danger is present as “Obamacare” will remain in effect during the legal challenge.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who is leading the Democratic states, said he hopes the Supreme Court will consider the matter in the court’s next term, which starts in October. Four justices must vote to accept a case for it to appear on the calendar.

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Balanced effort leads GBC past Charleston Catholic, 60-49

BECKLEY, W.Va. — Five players scored in double figures for Greater Beckley Christian as the Crusaders collected an impressive 60-49 win over Charleston Catholic.

GBC’s Isaiah Hairston led all scorers with 15 points. He was followed up by teammates Kaden Smallwood (14), Elijah Edwards (11), Thaddeus Jordan (10) and Krystian Krunic (10).

“We’re happy to have the win,” said Greater Beckley Christian head coach Brian Helton. “We know how hard they are going to play. I thought our kids tried to match that intensity. I thought we did a good job of defending in the half court and getting the ball down inside on offense.”

The Crusaders (10-3) have won four games over a span of five days.

“Last night we played so well (against Webster County) that I think maybe early on we had a little hangover,” Helton said. When you play one of the top teams in the state you can’t have that our you’re going to have what happened to us early which is find ourselves down.”

Charleston Catholic led 11-7 after the first quarter but the Crusaders closed the half on an 18-2 run to take a 28-17 lead into halftime. The Irish crept to within six points in both the third and fourth quarters but could never inch any closer.

Zion Suddeth led the Irish (7-3) with 13 points. Aiden Satterfield and Marshall Pile each added a dozen points.

The Crusaders have won five consecutive games and are undefeated against Class A competition. “Our three losses are to Class AAA teams (University, Life Christian, Va. and Woodrow Wilson). All in all, this one marks right up there with all of those wins. When you play a top five team like Charleston Catholic, you have to count that as a great win.”

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Lee seeking fifth term as WVEA president

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Dale Lee will seek a fifth term leading the West Virginia Education Association.

Lee announced his decision on Tuesday’s MetroNews “Talkline,” noting with 2020 being an election year, he needs to remain as president for stability.

“This one really is the most important election of our time,” Lee said. “We have to get some moderate people who want to move West Virginia forward in the House and Senate that want to look at public education for our students and really make sure we fund that correctly and are doing the right things with it.”

The education union has not made an endorsement yet in this year’s cycle. When asked if it would endorse Gov. Jim Justice, Lee said there is a process in approving endorsements.

“We’re working on a questionnaire right now. Once the filing period is over, we’ll send a questionnaire to every candidate who is one the ballot for governor, Board of Public Works, the House and the Senate of the state Legislature,” he added. “Our by-laws say we cannot endorse anyone until they fill out the questionnaire.”

Lee added the state has made improvements in education under Justice, but he wants to leave the final decision up to union members.

The West Virginia Education Association will hold its leadership election in April.

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Paine to ask for keeping social studies standards

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — State Superintendent Steve Paine is planning on asking the West Virginia Board of Education to keep the number of high school social studies credits the same.

The announcement comes following criticism over a proposal cutting the number of credits required to graduate from four to three and requiring only one American history course.

While the comment period on the policy is open until Jan. 24, the state Department of Education noted Tuesday the review left officials understanding of arguments from the public.

The state Board of Education could still approve the policy.

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WVU notes improved academic performance among Greek life

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia University officials say academic performance among the school’s Greek community is now higher than the student population at-large.

During the fall of 2019, the average GPA among fraternity and sorority members was 3.24 compared to the average for WVU undergraduate students, 2.969.

Matthew Richardson, director of the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life, said the numbers are expected to continue rising.

“We’ve seen a significant increase in the academic performance of our Greek students and it has steadily climbed to be over the all undergraduate average,” Richardson said. “Now, this semester we’re looking at a 3.24 collective which is pretty fantastic.”

Phi Sigma Phi Fraternity led Interfraternity Council with a 3.2 GPA; Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity led the National Pan-Hellenic Council with 2.843; Kappa Kappa Gamma Sorority led the Panhellenic Association with 3.47; and the Phi Beta Lambda Co-Ed Business Fraternity led the Professional Geek Council with a 3.7 GPA.

“I think what we’re seeing is Greeks being able to collaborate with one another and learn some skills from one another,” Richardson said. “What we’re hoping is our academic service and professional Greeks, some of their good study habits will rub off on our social Greeks.”

He added Greek life has experienced a culture change over the past five years.

“I think our students have realized that with the privilege that comes with being a member of a fraternity or sorority comes with a level of expectation,” he said. “Greeks are often relied upon by administrators and community members to be role models and change agents.”

Richardson also pointed to a policy not allowing first-year students to join a Greek organization during their first semester on campus is also a contributing factor to the improved performance.

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JV dunk shatters backboard; game called off

QUINCY, W.Va. — Riverside and George Washington were supposed to play basketball Tuesday night but the second half of the JV game and the entire varsity game had to be postponed after a dunk shattered a backboard.

It came in the first half of the JV game with the Patriots leading the Warriors  24-20 with 45 seconds left in the 2nd quarter. Riverside missed a shot and Warriors freshman Braydin Ward went up for a two-hand slam. The result was a shattered board.

So I finally get to see my kid dunk in person!!Hold up. He broke the back board!!!Braydin Ward 33

Posted by Angela Ward on Tuesday, January 21, 2020

GW Junior Varsity Coach Todd Hutchinson said he had to do a double take at first.

“Oh man, first thing I was just shocked, like did that really happen … then I was like well I guess the game is over … which was unfortunate because it was actually turning into a pretty good JV game,” he said.

Ward is listed at 6-5 190 pounds.

No one was injured.

The two schools hope to make up the game later this season.

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Spencer Macke living as king for a day after making first shot

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — It’s Spencer Macke’s world, and we’re just living in it.

Macke has seemingly been lifted to the heavens since getting carried off the WVU Coliseum floor following West Virginia’s 97-59 win over Texas, unwittingly providing the program with its most national exposure in years despite being its last man in the lineup.

ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt took that scene and ran with it, highlighting Macke’s first career field goal as “The Best Thing I Saw All Day” on his SportsCenter broadcast late Monday night.

👀 @notthefakeSVP The Best Thing I Saw Today! @Smacke1313 🔥#HailWV pic.twitter.com/18lYxIBv54

— WVU Basketball (@WVUhoops) January 21, 2020

ESPN wasn’t done with the Macke love-fest, once again highlighting the moment during Tuesday morning’s SportsCenter broadcast.

This morning’s Sportscenter with a special segment on walk-on Spencer Macke! 💪🏻💪🏻 #HailWV pic.twitter.com/KTzg1omSoh

— WVU Basketball (@WVUhoops) January 21, 2020

Quite the turn of events for a freshman walk-on whose most prominent recruitment came from Division II Kentucky Wesleyan.

Macke’s moment began in earnest when the student section started calling for him, as it always does at the end of blowout wins. In this case, though, there was still plenty of time left — there was still 7:05 on the clock when the cries of “We want Macke!” started ringing through the Coliseum.

At that point the lead was secure enough that the Mountaineers could have gotten by with the 5-foot-11 Macke playing center, but Bob Huggins waited another four minutes before relenting to the crowd’s demands.

Though it was still the earliest Macke has checked into a game this season, he didn’t get his first shot off until 35 seconds remained. That one was on the wrong end of the highlight real, resoundingly rejected by 6-foot-8 Texas forward Gerald Liddell.

But Jordan McCabe was able to corral the loose ball and feed it back to Macke, who got his second attempt off just before Liddell had the chance to jump in from behind for a repeat rejection.

“I was nervous,” Macke said. “I didn’t know if I should shoot or not because I didn’t want to get blocked two times in a row.”

He made the right choice, with his three-pointer temporarily putting West Virginia up by 41 points.

As was the case when Macke hit a pair of free throws in a December game against Nicholls, West Virginia’s bench lost its collective mind when the ball went through the net. So did the guys on the floor.

“It’s like a big brother seeing his little brother score for the first time,” said teammate Emmitt Matthews.

It was Matthews and Oscar Tshiebwe who gave Macke the ultimate hero’s treatment, plucking the 170-pound guard onto their shoulders for a ride to the locker room.

“It felt great,” Macke said. “I loved that.”

As it turns out, so did much of America on Spencer Macke’s unexpected day in the spotlight.

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Miley: Economic impact study for marijuana makes sense

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — House of Delegates Minority Leader Tim Miley says there’s no way to know the economic impact the legalization of marijuana for recreational use would have on West Virginia unless it’s studied.

File

Tim Miley

Miley and members of the House Democratic Caucus sent a letter this week to state Commerce Secretary Ed Gaunch seeking the study. Miley said during an appearance on MetroNews “Talkline” Tuesday without the study the impact is only a guessing game.

“We don’t know so why wouldn’t we want to know that number and that data to drive our decision-making,” Miley said. “Number 2, clearly, other states are getting on board with that.”

.@TimMileyWV joins @HoppyKercheval at the Capitol to discuss a marijuana study and legalization in West Virginia. WATCH: https://t.co/wkudfIRZCB pic.twitter.com/VAVdacWq4P

— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) January 21, 2020

Eleven states have legalized the recreational use of marijuana in recent years along with the District of Columbia.

“We really don’t hear of anything negative happening those states, at least from a national level,” Miley said.

Miley said his own thoughts about the legalization have evolved in recent years. He said he believes it’s happened around the country.

“It’s not much different than alcohol and the health effects it can cause or smoking cigarettes,” Miley said.

He doesn’t know if Gaunch will do the study or not but he hopes so. Miley said the state is in danger of missing an opportunity, not so much for the tax money, but a chance to be proactive and become more inviting to those who currently don’t live in West Virginia.

“We seem to be adverse to passing those kinds of policies that might actually attract young people that would keep them here or bring them here and I think we’re going down a bad path by ignoring it,” Miley said.

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Front porch video shows man shooting up Charleston house

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Police are looking for the person responsible for shooting several rounds from an AK-47 style rifle at a residence on Charleston’s West Side early Tuesday morning.

A front porch security video shows two men walking toward the house in the 400 block of Wyoming Street at around 1 a.m. Tuesday. One man knocks on the door and goes back toward the street while the other man waits a few feet from the front porch pointing the rife at the house.

When someone inside asks “Who is it?” the man holding the rifle fires it several times as he runs away. The other man took off in the other direction.

Charleston police said no one was injured.

Anyone with information is asked to call 304-348-8111. Police said callers may remain anonymous.

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