CHARLESTON, W.Va. – A group of Republican Delegates representing southern West Virginia’s coal country today said they will oppose the tax plan Gov. Jim Justice wants to push through the Legislature later this week, saying the severance tax portion could harm coal operators and result in more job losses for miners.
“Just as President Donald Trump begins to fulfill his promise to ‘Put the miners back to work,’ our Governor wants to shove through a tax plan that’s going to put some coal mines and coal miners out of business,” said Delegate Zack Maynard, R-Lincoln. “The industry and our region are just now starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and I’m going to fight any proposal that could halt that recovery and cost us coal jobs.”
The Governor has proposed a tiered severance tax system for coal and natural gas. While the plan stands to be a boon for steam coal mines, it will double the current tax rate for metallurgical mines, which are experiencing a temporary comeback right now due to a cyclone that cut off coal supply in Australia.
The plan will also change the tax rates for thin-seam coal mines – changes that will cause companies to drop plans to reopen some mines.
“It’s clear to me this plan was designed to benefit one man: Jim Justice,” said Delegate Tony Paynter, R-Wyoming. “This plan will benefit some coal companies at the expense of others, costing us jobs and lost opportunities. This plan is unfair to coal operators and the miners who are desperately wanting to get back to work.”
The Department of Revenue estimates the plan, as it was introduced on the final night of the regular session, would cut severance tax collections by $135 million next year, and $140-$150 million each year after. This would also significantly cut the flow of severance tax funds to counties and local governments across the state.
“We’ve already seen hundreds of teachers, police officers and county employees laid off across southern West Virginia, and this plan will only lead to more job losses,” said Delegate Mark Dean, R-Mingo. “Our region has suffered enough, and we need a plan that will help everyone get back on their feet. The Governor’s plan picks winners and losers and is unfair to our region. I hope they drop it and work with us on a plan that will be fair to all and encourage the recovery that’s starting to take hold in our region.”