Gov. Jim Justice

Gov. Jim Justice is shown at one of his town hall meetings convincing voters to reject Amendment 2 in the general election.

CHARLESTON — Gov. Jim Justice said Wednesday he wants to “get rid of the car tax on day one” when the 2023 legislative session convenes in January.

Justice said during his pandemic briefing that the people of West Virginia have spoken by voting down all four amendments to the state Constitution that were on the ballot last week.

That included Amendment 2, which would have given legislators the authority to end or change the local machinery and inventory tax as well as the vehicle personal property tax.

Republican members of the Senate had pushed for the amendment, pledging to reimburse counties for local revenue lost each year if the taxes were eliminated.

But Justice, also a Republican, had campaigned around the state opposing the amendment, saying eliminating the vehicle personal property tax was used as “bait” because legislators really want to get rid of the machinery and inventory tax.

Rather than change the state Constitution to end the car tax, Justice proposed that the state will reimburse residents directly for the local car tax they pay each year, a plan he says he is sticking with and will present to the Legislature.

In Mercer County, the average car tax paid per vehicle is $450 a year, with newer model cars up to $2,000, so the tax amounts are substantial.

Under Justice’s plan, which can be done without changing the state Constitution and still leave local control of the taxes in place, residents will continue to pay their car tax to the county, but then receive refunds from the state equal to the tax they paid.

Mercer County receives about $11 million a year from those taxes, with $8 million going to schools and $3 million for county services like law enforcement and parks.

County commissions in 53 of the state’s 55 counties joined Justice in his fight to defeat Amendment 2, saying there was no perpetual funding source to reimburse counties in the years to come in the Senate plan.

Residents may see tax relief in Justice’s plan on the car tax, but it must be approved by the Legislature.

“We have people all across this state that are hurting,” he said, and legislators need to “step up and help them.”

Justice said he hopes there will be no “infighting” because people made it clear they did not want the amendment passed and “our people want tax relief.”

Justice also said he wants to see relief in the form of cutting the state personal income tax, which he has been pushing for two years.

“We can get on … a pathway to get rid of the personal income tax,” he said, and shove ending the machinery and inventory tax “down the line.”

Ending the personal income tax is a priority and the way to attract people to the state, he maintains.

“Let’s get together and work this out,” he said, referring to legislators.

With a state revenue surplus of $1.3 billion during fiscal year 2021-22 and about the same expected for this fiscal year, Justice and legislators have said the state can afford tax relief for residents.

But the disagreements on how to do that escalated as last week’s election drew near.

Justice also indicated on Wednesday he will support former Pres. Donald Trump in his reelection bid.

Trump declared his 2024 candidacy for president Tuesday night in a speech, one which Justice said impressed him.

“I thought he did a heck of a job,” Justice said. “Last night, in my opinion, you saw a president.”

Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com

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