Charleston, WV - During yesterday’s floor session of the House of Delegates, a motion to suspend the constitutional rule requiring a bill be read on three separate days was rejected. Several Democratic Delegates had concerns about the provisions of House Bill 113, Establishing tax incentive for new business activity in qualified opportunity zones.
“Yesterday, we had an opportunity to enhance the business climate and job market for all West Virginians but declined to do so,” Delegate Sean Hornbuckle (D-Cabell) stated. “I voted against suspending rules to take up House Bill 113 for a few reasons, but mainly because it does not provide opportunity for the actual residents in the opportunity zone,” he said. “Furthermore, during the 2019 Regular Legislative Session, I voted for the bill as it had potential to assist impoverished communities and minority businesses as it had been packaged by Republican Senator Tim Scott.,” Delegate Hornbuckle continued.
“Unfortunately, there was no language added that incentivized investors hiring persons native to the opportunity zones, nor was there any language that explicitly promoted minority businesses like the President of the United States championed it to do. While I am for business incentives, this particular entitlement program for wealthy investors has already been scrutinized heavily on the national scene, most notably with the Amazon Data Centers. Most importantly, as currently authorized, this legislation would open the door for modern day redlining and re-gentrification. I am excited for the opportunity to work with leadership to make this legislation work for both investors and my everyday constituents yearning for real opportunities,” Delegate Hornbuckle said.
Delegate Danielle Walker (D-Monongalia) also explained her concerns about the legislation. “Opportunity zones are defined in many ways,” she stated. “Propaganda and political jargon bring awareness to many issues. What is an opportunity zone? Who will take the advantages? The same big businesses with big names will make their pockets larger. Small businesses, areas of low income, and/or disparity areas will still be last on the list. When will we allow our communities a chance to get out of poverty? When will our children and elders see the same on both sides of the tracks? Equality and equity are never an opportunity due to the zone you reside in,” Delegate Walker said.
Delegate Mike Pushkin (D-Kanawha) joined their call to slow down this legislation. “While we should always be looking for ways to stimulate growth in areas that need the most help, the process in which the current zones were designated was not transparent and excluded public input,” he stated. “When we see counties like McDowell not receive a single designated zone and the Governor’s home county of Greenbrier take a lion’s share, it really raises the question of just how these determinations were made,” Delegate Pushkin added.