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  1. West Virginia Gov. Justice makes income tax elimination plan top priority

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    CHARLESTON — Gov. Jim Justice hopes to make West Virginia the eighth state in the nation without a personal income tax.

    Justice outlined a strategy to phase out and eventually eliminate the state’s income tax during his 2021 State of the State Address, marking the effort as one of his major priorities for the current session of the West Virginia Legislature.

    As of 2021, seven states — Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming — do not have a state income tax. Two other states, New Hampshire and Tennessee, don’t tax earned wages.

    Justice’s plan would initially see personal income taxes cut in half for most West Virginians, while imposing a series of new taxes and tax hikes.

    Personal income taxes eventually would be eliminated for all residents, with the hope that the predicted economic development activity and influx of new residents that will occur as a result will make up for the lost revenues.

    In order to replace the $2.1 billion received annually from the personal income tax, Justice said the state should raise its consumer sales tax by 1.5%, impose taxes on the purchase of tobacco products and soda, create a “tiered” system for severance tax collections, impose taxes on some professional services, impose a wealth tax and make $25 million in budget cuts.

    Richard Auxier, senior policy associate for the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, said politicians like to bring up eliminating income taxes because, on the surface, it seems like an idea that can be easily sold to the public.

    “If you ask someone, ‘Would you rather pay higher or lower taxes?’ they are going to say lower taxes,” he said.

    However, this overlooks the importance of the essential services — such as infrastructure, education and health care — typically funded by income tax revenues and ignores the actual needs of businesses and families, Auxier said.

    “That’s the other side of the ledger. That’s why we have taxes,” he said. “It’s critical to make sure that anytime you discuss this, you can’t make the question, ‘Do you want to pay higher or lower tax?’ I’m pretty sure I know the answer to that. The question for West Virginia is what do businesses in West Virginia need to thrive and what do families, to stay or draw them to West Virginia, need to thrive?”

    Those who earn less will be most impacted by raising the consumer sales tax, Auxier said.

    “Lower income people tend to buy more goods which are taxable than higher income earners, but it’s just math,” he said. “If you only have $25,000 in income, you’re spending pretty much every dollar that comes in and it’s being taxed at the same time. If you’re higher income, well you’re pocketing money, you’re saving money and you’re investing money. Your purchases simply aren’t as large a share of your income, so the tax bill for you overall goes down as a percentage of your income.”

    Kansas tried a similar strategy in 2012 that had disastrous results, Auxier said.

    “The governor at the time, Gov. [Sam] Brownback, put forth a very similar proposal. He literally said at the time, ‘I want Kansas to be an experiment.’ And his experiment failed spectacularly,” Auxier said. “The income tax cuts did not generate any economic growth. Not only that, Kansas fell behind its neighboring states when it cut its taxes. It didn’t just fail to reach its very high goals of booming economic growth, it fell back on its butt.”

    The experiment resulted in deep deficits in Kansas’s budget, Auxier said.

    “Therefore that exacerbated its ability to fund its schools, fund its roads and it fell into this terrible problem,” he said.

    States that have managed to successfully eliminate income tax — states like Texas and Florida — have a substantially higher population then West Virginia and have very different economies, Auxier said.

    “You have to think about what is right for West Virginia — given its economic mix, given its major businesses, given the challenges that families face, given the size of its cities, the size of its local governments,” he said. “Simply pointing at a state that you think is a success and saying that it must be the income tax, that’s myopic at the least.”

    West Virginia lawmakers are waiting for more details of the governor’s tax plan to be released, but many members of the GOP caucus have already signaled their support for the proposal.

    Senate President Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, said West Virginia must “take bold steps to secure our future.”

    “We have been committed over the last four years to improving our state’s business climate, reforming our education system and promoting all of the benefits our state has to offer,” he said. “We now must take the next step, and that step is removing our state’s personal income tax.”

    House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, said he looks forward to working with lawmakers to come up with a more concrete plan to accomplish Justice’s goal.

    “The task will be putting the right plan together,” he said. “There is significant support in the House to eliminate the income tax, but it will of course depend on what the plan looks like. We’re not there yet on a plan, but we’re working toward it every day.”

    Del. Clay Riley, R-Harrison, said he would support a plan that results in net tax relief for state residents.

    “I am always in favor of putting money back in West Virginians’ pockets. It’s not the government’s money; it’s the people who are out there earning it,” he said. “I think it’s time that we have a good, honest debate about how we can do that successfully.”

    Justice’s plan is a “good starting point” for lawmakers, Riley said.

    “You always have someplace to start to have the discussion,” he said. “So I expect you’re going to see some good healthy discussion over the next 60 days. I think there’s a lot of great of ideas. And I think that as we work through the committee process, we’ll see something come out that’s good for the state of West Virginia.”

    Del. Ben Queen, R-Harrison, said it’s typical for the governor to drop “bomb”-like ideas during his State of the State address.

    “But not normally a billion dollar bomb. That’s hard to get used to here in the Legislature, especially when our general budget is only $4.5 billion,” he said. “But I think we’re all in favor of removing the personal income tax; it’s just how do we get there? Can we afford it? And in what manner do we do so?”

    He also expects the tax package to change and evolve as it works itself through the committee process, Queen said.

    “What I think we’re trying to weigh the options of is, how do we offset it?” he said. “We were cutting the budget $450 million just four years ago. Now, we do have surpluses, don’t get me wrong, but can we afford a $1 billion plan in a time where we’re kind of uncertain about what the future looks like?”

    There have been numerous previous attempts to remove the state’s personal income tax, Queen said.

    “We’ve all seen many different forms and plans to remove the personal income tax, and I think that’s the best one we’ve seen so far,” he said. “At the end of the day, I think you’re going to see a lot of discussion about the personal income tax. … If we can afford it, I think we’re all in. But making sure we can afford it is the uphill battle right now.”

    Del. Joey Garcia, D-Marion, said he fears the tax plan will overshadow other important issues during this year’s session.

    “A number of things that are being put on the table to try and pay for even a half repeal of the income tax, a lot of things have been discussed before and a lot of them have failed before with Republicans and Democrats,” he said. “So for me, there’s a lot of concern about that proposal and that it leaves a lot of the priorities that we should be looking at without the adequate funding that they need.”

    Although Republicans are in the majority in both chambers and, in theory, have the numbers to pass just about any legislation, some GOP members have expressed doubts about the tax plan, Garcia said.

    “I’m not so certain that they have the numbers to pass that, when it comes to their caucus and how they are split,” he said. “I don’t know that for sure and I haven’t talked to all the Republicans, but I’ve talked to a number of them that have reservations.”

    Written By: Senior Staff Writer Charles Young From the State Journal

  2. Toyota West Virginia announces $210 million new investment and 100 new jobs

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    New investment to upgrade existing engine production line; new jobs to add third shift.

    Photo Credit: WVNews 

    To help meet customer demand, Toyota Motor Manufacturing West Virginia (TMMWV) will invest $210 million to upgrade existing engine production and add 100 new jobs to increase assembly capacity of its four-cylinder engine line. Once complete, TMMWV’s total investment will be more than $1.8 billion and total employment will exceed 2,000.

    Today’s announcement represents Toyota’s continued commitment to our customers as well as our community,” TMMWV President Srini Matam said.

    We are thrilled to expand our Toyota family and continue our long-standing commitment to provide top-quality engines and transmissions for our customers.

    The $210 million investment will upgrade TMMWV’s current six-cylinder engine production line with new equipment and machinery, creating flexibility based on market demand for Toyota’s vehicle assembly plants in the U.S. and Canada.

    The 100 new jobs will create a third shift due to a significant increase in Rav4 engine production at the Buffalo site, increasing assembly of an additional 5,900 engines per month, or more than 70,000 engines per year.

    The upgrade project and hiring will be complete in the second half of 2022. Information regarding available positions at TMMWV can be found at www.tourtoyota.com.

    Toyota’s commitment to increase its investment in West Virginia and into our hard-working West Virginians prove they continue to be a wonderful business partner right here in the Mountain State,” West Virginia Governor Jim Justice said.

    This is such exciting news for West Virginia’s business community as well as our families that businesses are choosing to grow their organizations here. Toyota is a wonderful example of how a global company can be successful right here in West Virginia.

    U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, praised Toyota for their long-term commitment to the Mountain State.

    In 2005 as Governor, I had the opportunity to travel to Japan to meet with Dr. Toyoda and company officials and since then they have been a strong partner for West Virginia,” Manchin said.

    I’ve had the pleasure of working with Toyota as they continue to build on their investments in the state, which now total more than $1.8 billion and support 2,000 good-paying jobs,” Manchin said.

    Today’s announcement of 100 new jobs and its continued investment in the state is testament to the team in Buffalo and the West Virginia workforce. The partnership between Toyota and West Virginia is stronger than ever and I look forward to continuing to work with Toyota officials to foster more long-term investments in our economy, communities and people.

    Sen. Shelley Moore Capito said Toyota’s success in West Virginia sends a clear message to other companies about West Virginians’ skills and work ethic.

    Since Toyota first came to West Virginia more than 25 years ago, they have expanded their operations multiple times in Buffalo and proven to the country that our state has the skilled and dedicated workforce necessary for any company to be successful here,” she said.

    I have seen this dedication and strong work ethic of the Toyota Team Members firsthand during facility visits, and I’m glad that today’s announcement will create new job opportunities for hardworking West Virginians to pursue,” Senator Capito said.

    I’m thrilled that the Buffalo engine plant is continuing to play a key role in producing the engines and motors that power U.S. vehicles as Toyota continues to develop and incorporate exciting new technologies into their fleet. West Virginia has a long and productive relationship with Toyota, and this announcement today further solidifies the company’s commitment to investing in our state and our workers.

    Toyota has created a tremendous value chain in the U.S., with more than $28.4 billion direct investment in the U.S., nine manufacturing facilities, 10 including our joint venture with Mazda, nearly 1,500 independently owned dealerships and approximately 180,000 people working across the U.S.

    TMMWV currently employs approximately 2,000 team members and has invested more than $1.8 billion into its nearly two million square-foot facility. TMMWV will commemorate its 25th anniversary this year. It annually produces nearly one million engines and transmissions for North American-assembled vehicles, including Avalon, Camry, Corolla, Highlander, Highlander Hybrid, Lexus ES, Lexus RX350, Rav4, Sienna, and Sienna Hybrid.

    Photo Credit: WVNews

    Article by The Dominion Post

  3. Agreement between UK company DST and Blue Rock Manufacturing to bring new manufacturing facility, up to 1,000 new jobs to West Virginia

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    Jim Justice announced today that DST Innovations, a UK technology company headquartered in Wales, has chosen West Virginia as the home of its new American manufacturing base; agreeing on a contract with West Virginia-based company Blue Rock Manufacturing to establish a new facility for the development of its new energy cells.

    The new facility will be the forefront of green technology, using existing organic material such as coal to create new clean energy storage solutions. The development is expected to create up to 1,000 new jobs in the manufacturing and technology sectors. The manufacturing base will be located in Morgantown, with a Phase 2 expansion planned for the Southern Coalfields region of the state.

    This is a gigantic announcement for West Virginia and I could not be happier,” Gov. Justice said. “It’s wonderful to be able to announce a new international partnership for business in West Virginia. The development is a great example of the special relationship we have with the UK and, now, specifically, with Wales.

    West Virginia and Wales are both proud mining communities,” Gov. Justice continued. “They share their heritage and appreciation for the natural resources, and this special partnership will see us both at the forefront of new energy.

    When successfully completed, the production facility will use the latest material science techniques, combining them with cutting-edge manufacturing knowledge to turn West Virginia coal and other organic materials into clean, sustainable energy storage products. The facility aims to produce large scale, printed energy storage systems and clean, high-grade electronic inks and coatings for use in battery and capacitor products worldwide.

    We want, in West Virginia, to chase every opportunity we have to bring goodness and jobs to West Virginia,” Gov. Justice said. “This is another great example of how all the work that we’re doing within the state of West Virginia makes these things become a reality, but these things only become a reality with the goodness of the people on the other side of the equation. These people from Wales probably looked at many places within the United States, but they have chosen West Virginia, and I could never be more thankful.

    The pioneering facility in West Virginia will be integral to a new, internationally-funded $1.4 billion natural energy project: Dragon Energy Island, located in Swansea, South Wales. Products created in West Virginia will enable the efficient storage of energy generated at the groundbreaking project, harnessing the power of nature.A DST spokesperson said “We want to thank Governor Justice and his team for the warm welcome we have received. We are excited to create our American home in West Virginia, and truly believe, together, we can turn West Virginia coal into the clean resource of the future. The technology that will be used in Swansea for the Dragon Energy Island project can be utilized throughout the world, and we welcome the opportunity to aid governments achieve their sustainability and green ambitions.

    Rob Stewart, Leader of Swansea Council said “Swansea Bay offers an unprecedented opportunity to deliver the world’s first truly integrated tidal energy project. This project has the potential to spur a new industry not just for Swansea but for Wales and the UK. The impacts on employment and our local economy are set to be significant and perfectly timed as we address the post-COVID economy.

    We remain 100 percent committed to seeing the project delivered in Swansea and are grateful for all of the efforts made by DST to bring together such a strong consortium of organizations with a proven track record of success,” Stewart added.

    We’re delighted to be making this announcement today with the Governor, who has been a great support and aide in making this project become a reality,” said Mary Anne Ketelsen of Blue Rock Manufacturing. “We will be so pleased to add so many jobs. We need them, and I can’t think of a better place to bring jobs than West Virginia.