West Virginia Amendment 2, Authorize Tax Exemptions for Vehicles and Personal Property Used for Business Measure (2022)
West Virginia Amendment 2 was a proposed constitutional amendment that appeared on the November 8, 2022 ballot in West Virginia. Had it passed, the amendment would have authorized the state legislature to exempt certain personal property used for business purposes and personal vehicles from property taxes. However, the amendment failed, with over 60% of voters rejecting the change.
The purpose behind Amendment 2 was to reduce taxes on businesses in order to make West Virginia more economically competitive with surrounding states. By exempting inventory, equipment, and vehicles used for business from property taxes, supporters argued that companies would be encouraged to locate and expand in West Virginia, creating jobs and economic growth.
However, opponents raised concerns about the potential loss of tax revenue for local governments, schools, and other public services that are funded by property taxes. This tension between business tax exemptions and public revenue highlighted the complex policy debates surrounding West Virginia’s tax structure.
Background on Property Taxes in West Virginia
Currently, West Virginia taxes various forms of personal and real property. As of 2022, the state constitution exempted property used for educational, charitable, religious, cemetery, public, agricultural, and limited personal purposes from property taxation. Amendment 2 would have added exemptions for tangible personal property used for business purposes and personal vehicles.
In 2018, West Virginia collected $523.9 million in revenue from taxes levied on business inventory, equipment, and other tangible personal property. 65.3% of this revenue went to public schools, 27.2% went to county governments, 7.1% went to municipalities, and 0.4% went to libraries. This represented a significant source of funding for vital local services.
West Virginia is one of only nine states that fully tax business inventory. The state also has higher property tax rates on personal vehicles compared to some other states in the region. Some argued this put West Virginia at a competitive disadvantage in attracting business activity. There had been previous unsuccessful attempts to amend the state constitution to exempt certain forms of personal property, including in 2012.
Details of Amendment 2
Text of the Amendment
The full text of Amendment 2 modified Section 1 of Article X of the West Virginia Constitution to allow the legislature to exempt tangible personal property used for business and personal vehicles from property tax. The key additions to the constitution are emphasized below:
What the Amendment Would Have Changed
If passed, Amendment 2 would have given the West Virginia Legislature authority to fully exempt inventory and equipment used for business activity, as well as personal vehicles, from property taxes.
Any changes would still have to be passed by the legislature at a later date. The amendment by itself did not automatically exempt any property. It merely enabled the legislature to take that action in the future without requiring an additional constitutional amendment.
Estimated Revenue Impact
The state legislature did not provide an official estimate of the potential revenue impact of Amendment 2. Opponents argued the exemptions could cost local governments over $200 million per year in lost property tax revenue if fully implemented. Supporters contended the exemptions would encourage new business investment and that lost revenue could be replaced. The exact impacts were uncertain.
Supporters and Opponents of Amendment 2
Amendment 2 sparked heated debate between business groups and representatives of local government.
Arguments Made by Supporters
- Would make WV more competitive with surrounding states that exempt inventory and business equipment from property taxes
- Encourages job creation and economic growth by reducing taxes on businesses
- Modernizes an outdated tax structure by exempting intangible property
- Lost revenue could be replaced through other taxes or economic growth
Arguments Made by Opponents
- Would strip counties, municipalities, schools, and libraries of major revenue source
- Forces cuts to vital local services like public safety and education
- Lack of plan to replace over $200 million per year in lost revenue
- Benefits large out-of-state corporations at expense of WV residents
Election Results: Voters Rejected Amendment 2
When West Virginians voted on November 8, 2022, Amendment 2 was soundly defeated.
64.51% voted against the amendment, while only 35.49% voted in favor. All 55 counties in the state opposed the amendment, with some opposition as high as 80%.
This rejection of Amendment 2 was an indication that voters were unwilling to exempt major categories of property from taxation without a clear plan to replace lost revenue for local communities. The outcome demonstrated concerns about reducing funds for schools, police, infrastructure, and other vital services.
There were no registered committees supporting or opposing Amendment 2. The amendment originated in the state legislature, which approved it with bipartisan majorities in both chambers.
Similar Measures in Other States
West Virginia is not alone in grappling with proposals to exempt business inventory and equipment from property taxes.
Currently, nine states fully tax business inventory: Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia. Another five states partially tax inventory. The rest fully exempt it.
Some states that fully taxed inventory have recently amended their laws or constitutions to exempt it, including Georgia and North Carolina. This is part of a national trend to reduce business property taxes.
On the other hand, efforts to create exemptions have also failed in some states, similar to Amendment 2 in West Virginia. Voters in Texas rejected a constitutional amendment in 2019 that would have prohibited a business tax on inventory.
While Amendment 2 was defeated this year, it highlights the ongoing debate around West Virginia’s tax structure and economic competitiveness. The property tax revenue at stake represents a critical funding source for local communities, which depended on voters rejecting this amendment.
However, pressure remains to reduce business taxes in order to attract jobs and investment to the state. The defeat of Amendment 2 does not resolve questions about West Virginia’s economic direction. Policymakers will continue grappling with how to balance business tax incentives with funding for schools, infrastructure, and public services. Voters will likely see future proposals to amend property taxes on the ballot.
The failure of Amendment 2 means property taxes on business inventory, equipment, and vehicles remain unchanged in West Virginia for now. But the economic forces driving this proposal remain unresolved.
What was West Virginia Amendment 2?
Amendment 2 was a proposed constitutional amendment to allow the West Virginia Legislature to exempt personal property used for business and personal vehicles from property tax. It appeared on the November 2022 ballot but was rejected by voters.
How would Amendment 2 have changed property taxes?
Amendment 2 would have enabled the legislature to exempt business inventory, equipment, and personal vehicles from property tax in the future. It did not directly change tax policy itself.
Who supported Amendment 2?
Amendment 2 was primarily supported by business groups like manufacturers who wanted to reduce taxes on inventory and equipment. Some legislators from both parties voted to put it on the ballot.
Who opposed the amendment?
Local government organizations opposed Amendment 2 due to concerns about losing revenue from property taxes that fund schools, police, infrastructure, and other vital services.
Why did voters reject the amendment?
Voters rejected Amendment 2 likely due to concerns about reducing funding for local communities and services. There was also no plan proposed to replace the potentially hundreds of millions in lost revenue.