West Virginia Legislature Passes Tax Credit Increase

WHEELING — A $1 million investment in the restoration of a historic building in Wheeling now can net a developer a $450,000 tax credit after an act by the West Virginia Legislature on Tuesday.

State lawmakers ended a special session of the Legislature late Tuesday after passage of all legislation before them. Among the bills approved was House Bill 203, which increases the tax credit for renovating qualified historic structures in the state from 10 percent to 25 percent. This is in addition to a 20-percent federal tax credit already available to developers, resulting in a 45-percent total tax credit.

Wheeling Mayor Glenn Elliott had been pushing West Virginia leaders to support a higher tax credit as some developers have expressed interest in rehabilitating some vacant buildings in downtown Wheeling, such as the former Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel building on Market Street.

Wheeling leaders also are seeking to improve several city-owned properties along Main and Market streets.

“This is a really a positive development,” Elliott said. “We consider our architectural history as one of our strong points, and it makes sense from an economic perspective. We’re hoping to see some development come in to our downtown buildings, and this suddenly makes them marketable.”

Elliott said although a number of companies have expressed interest in rehabilitating downtown buildings, “we just haven’t been able to make the numbers work.”

“And we’re willing to work with anybody to make the numbers work,” he said.

Senate Majority Leader Ryan Ferns, R-Ohio, said he met with Elliott after he took over as mayor last year, and Elliott spoke with him about increasing the historic tax credits. The two then met with a developer of projects across the nation who believed “Wheeling has potential,” according to Ferns.

Ferns then introduced legislation earlier this year to increase the amount of the tax credit, and later attempted to include the same language in a tax reform bill considered during a special session this summer.

“This is a great thing, and something I’ve advocated for,” he said. “This will be great for the city of Wheeling. … We can continue the development already happening in downtown Wheeling alongside the new construction of The Health Plan building.”

HB 203 unanimously passed the House Tuesday with a vote of 95-0; and the Senate, 33-0.The measure caps the amount of tax credit for any one project at $10 million, and allows just $30 million in tax credits for all historic rehabilitation projects in the state during each of the next five fiscal years.

Of the $30 million, the first $5 million must be set aside for smaller projects with expected tax credits of less than $500,000.

Sen. Glenn Jeffries, R-Putnam, suggested the remaining $25 million in tax credits for major projects would go quickly, and that the Legislature revisit the legislation during next year’s regular session to discuss increasing the caps.

The following bills also completed legislation on Tuesday:

∫ HB 201 — Exempting military income from state income tax. The measure passed the Senate 33-0, and the House, 94-1. Delegate Saira Blair, R-Berkeley, was the only lawmaker to vote against the measure.

∫ HB 205 — The West Virginia Jobs Act passed the House 94-1, with Delegate Marty Gearhart, R-Mercer, casting the only “no” vote. The vote in the Senate was 33-0.

Current law requires that 75 percent of workers required hired for state construction jobs to come from the local labor force, and if an employer finds this impossible the employer must contact WorkForce West Virginia for help. WorkForce West Virginia can issue a waiver if in-state hirings are impossible.

Employers not in compliance had faced a civil penalty of $100 for non-compliance. The new law would fine the same employer $250 per day for each employee hired that sets the company below the 75-percent benchmark for local hiring.

∫ SB 2003 — Implementing special hiring procedures for the West Virginia Division of Highways and the State Tax Division.

The legislation states the tax division alone currently has over 100 job vacancies, and the intent of the legislation is to address the shortages and vacancies that exist at both agencies.

The bill passed the Senate with a vote of 33-0, and the House 59-31 following a question and answer session with state officials during the evening.

Local delegates voting in favor of the measure were David Pethtel, D-Wetzel; William “Roger” Romine, R-Tyler; and Mark Zatezalo, R-Hancock. Opposed were Joe Canestraro and Mike Ferro, both D-Marshall; Phil Diserio, D-Brooke; Shawn Fluharty, D-Ohio; and Patrick McGeehan, R-Hancock.

Delegate Erikka Storch, R-Ohio, did not vote on SB 2003, but was present for other votes on Tuesday.

∫ SB 2005 — Approved technical corrections to State Court of Claims payments, and unanimously passed both chambers

Sen. Charles Clements, R-Wetzel, was not present for any votes during the special session as he deals with medical treatment for multiple myeloma, a cancer of the bone marrow plasma cells that produce antibodies.

On the Senate floor, Ferns said he and Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, had been in contact with Clements.

“He is doing well, and recovering well,” Ferns said. “Everything is going in a positive direction. He is getting additional treatments in Columbus, and we look forward to his return.”

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