We observe Labor Day to celebrate the economic and societal achievements of American workers. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, “American labor has raised the nation’s standard of living and contributed to the greatest production the world has ever known, and the labor movement has brought us closer to the realization of our traditional ideals of economic and political democracy.” But it’s incumbent on all of us to do more for American workers than simply enjoying a picnic or parade once a year in September. We also need to fight to empower workers and reject overt attempts by corporations to get out of paying their fair share.
If Amendment 2 passes and our schools, fire departments, and emergency responders are left with far fewer resources, they will undoubtedly have no choice but to cut positions and lay off workers. And while some state lawmakers have unveiled a flawed plan to reimburse counties for any funding losses should Amendment 2 pass, without new revenues their plan would require significant budget cuts at the state level. This would likely mean no room for public employee pay raises or benefit improvements and instead could lead to even more layoffs.
But there’s more. While proponents of Amendment 2 say that eliminating business property taxes will create manufacturing jobs, we have evidence from a neighboring state that’s not actually the case. When Ohio eliminated their business personal property tax, they actually lost manufacturing jobs (about 20,000 per year on average). Researchers found that eliminating the tax actually encouraged corporations to automate rather than hiring workers, since machinery became cheaper than labor with the tax cut.
West Virginia’s workers power our economy and they deserve far more than just our lip service on this long holiday weekend. We should reject Amendment 2, another handout to corporations that would come at the cost of public services and the jobs of West Virginia workers who provide them.
You can read Kelly’s full op-ed in the Charleston Gazette-Mail here.
Last year, the WVCBP’s 14th annual State of Working West Virginia focused on West Virginia’s robust labor history, particularly Black worker organizing and race and class solidarity. The report was authored by the WVCBP’s senior policy analyst, Sean O’Leary, and our summer research associate, Myya Helm. Stay tuned for our 15th annual State of Working West Virginia which will be published later this year.
“…strengthening the labor movement means remembering the past. This includes telling the stories of free Black laborers, the Coal Wars, American steel strikes, the Civil Rights Movement, victims of black lung, West Virginia’s statewide teacher walkouts, and so much more. There are valuable lessons on worker power to be gained from past and present unionists. Taking labor history directly to current and future workers helps them in understanding class solidarity, securing the benefits of unionism, and reviving the overall labor movement.
West Virginia’s workers and unions have long shaped American labor history through their strength, endurance, and resilience. They have exerted a broad influence on daily political, economic, and cultural life throughout the country. As the future of unions hangs in the balance, we all have the collective responsibility to share the stories and sacrifices of working West Virginians. Doing so will help ensure that all workers’ rights are protected, and that these workers, their children, and their children’s children have the power to negotiate for more favorable working conditions for decades to come.
Read Sean and Myya’s full report.
As noted in the entry above, Amendment 2, or the Property Tax Modernization Amendment, will be on the ballot this November for West Virginia voters to consider. If passed, it would amend the constitution to give the state legislature the authority to exempt business machinery and equipment, business inventory, and personal vehicles from property taxation. As such, passage of the amendment would give the legislature control over $515 million of property tax revenue, or 27 percent of total property tax revenue in the state, resulting in the fulfillment of a long-term goal of state legislators to take control of a significant portion of property tax revenue in order to pursue a property tax cut that largely benefits out-of-state businesses.
The proposed exemptions under Amendment 2 would result in local governments losing control over an essential revenue stream. The $515 million in property tax revenue from personal vehicles and business machinery and equipment, business inventory, and other business personal property accounts for up to 37 percent of total property tax revenue in some counties. The loss of this critical revenue will adversely impact the ability of municipalities, county governments, and school districts to provide needed services that benefit all West Virginians, and will likely lead to cuts to services or increased taxes on other parties, like homeowners.
As we approach this fall’s election, county commissions are increasingly coming out in public opposition to Amendment 2. A recent article details the Mercer County Commission’s decision to oppose the amendment. Excerpt below:
But commissioners show a reluctance to rely on those projections, saying the counties cannot risk being left in a lurch, and there is no “legislative plan for Amendment 2, as a real plan to implement the serious changes … requires the passage of legislation by the House and Senate. Here, there is no consensus, no agreement, and no clear plan that the voters can read and understand before they cast their vote…”
Commissioners also cautioned that West Virginia has a history of “boom or bust” revenue and expressed a concern that residents could end up paying for corporate cuts (equipment and inventory taxes) “through new sales taxes or fees…”
Read the full article.
Beginning in July 2021, most households with children had received monthly enhanced Child Tax Credit (CTC) payments of $250- 300 per child. However, the enhanced CTC included in the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) was temporary and expired at the end of 2021.
The impact on children and families since the expiration of the enhanced CTC has been severe. Between Dec. 2021 and Jan. 2022, there was a staggering 41 percent increase in child poverty nationwide due to the loss of the monthly payments. And as inflation continues to exacerbate family financial hardship, the need to make a robust CTC permanent is as urgent as ever.
Recently, a new proposal to expand the CTC was announced by Senator Mitt Romney. While we are excited to see bipartisan interest in enhancing the credit and while the proposal does improve some elements of the current law, it also has serious shortcomings – primarily, it does not make the full credit available to the lowest-income families (a notable divergence from the now-expired enhanced CTC that was included in the ARPA). Further, it proposes problematic offsets that would prove detrimental to low-income families.
The WVCBP’s Elevating the Medicaid Enrollment Experience (EMEE) Voices Project seeks to collect stories from West Virginians who have struggled to access Medicaid across the state. Being conducted in partnership with West Virginians for Affordable Health Care, EMEE Voices will gather insight to inform which Medicaid barriers are most pertinent to West Virginians, specifically people of color.
Do you have a Medicaid experience to share? We’d appreciate your insight. Just fill out the contact form on this webpage and we’ll reach out to you soon. We look forward to learning from you!
You can watch WVCBP’s health policy analyst Rhonda Rogombé and West Virginians for Affordable Health Care’s Mariah Plante further break down the project and its goals in this FB Live.
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