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(The Center Square) – When West Virginians stop casting ballots Tuesday, they will determine whether state lawmakers will have the authority to exempt certain business property from local taxation.

Amendment 2, which has become the most contentious initiative on the statewide ballot, would amend the constitution to grant lawmakers the power to approve exemptions for machinery, equipment and inventory business property from local property taxes. It would also allow the legislature to exempt vehicle property taxes.

The amendment would not guarantee any business tax cuts, but it would open the door for the legislature to pass bills to cut millions of dollars in business taxes. Although there has not been any legislation drafted, the Senate passed a resolution that expressed its intent to move forward with a variety of exemptions if the initiative is approved. House leadership has also indicated it would work with the Senate to approve exemptions.

Because all of these taxes are imposed and collected at the local level, it would give the state government more control over taxing policy and limit the authority that county governments currently hold. Although it would cut off a significant portion of local revenue streams, lawmakers have stated that they would approve bills that would ensure the local governments still receive the funds they need.

This promise has not been good enough to get county governments on their side. The Boards of the West Virginia Association of Counties, which represents the interest of county governments, and the County Commissioners Association of West Virginia, which represents the interest of county commissioners, both oppose the proposed amendment. The groups are worried that they would lose taxing authority, which could jeopardize certain services they provide.

On the other side of the argument, business groups have strongly supported the amendment and have argued that it would bolster the state economy by bringing in businesses and jobs who are incentivized to move to the state because of the tax cuts. It has garnered support from the West Virginia Republican Party, the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce and the West Virginia Manufacturers Association.

Gov. Jim Justice, who was initially friendly to the plan, has aggressively campaigned against the initiative over the last month. He has given speeches all across the state, urging voters to vote against the amendment. The governor has criticized the plan because he says it would centralize taxing authority and make it possible to end the state income tax, which has been a priority of his over the last two years.

The governor introduced legislation that would significantly reduce the state income tax three times over the past two years, which he has said would be the start of eliminating the tax altogether. During the first attempt, the governor, the House and the Senate all tried to pass income tax reduction plans, but failed to reach an agreement. During the second and third attempts, the governor’s plan passed the House, but failed to receive a vote in the Senate.

In-person advance voting and mail-in voting has begun in the state. On Tuesday, polls are open from 6:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m.

Staff Reporter

Tyler Arnold reports on Virginia and West Virginia for The Center Square. He previously worked for the Cause of Action Institute and has been published in Business Insider, USA TODAY College, National Review Online and the Washington Free Beacon.