This is the latest in an ongoing series of articles examining the
issues, records and platforms of West Virginia's candidates for governor.
Today's installment focuses on taxes.
Twenty years ago, a group of volunteers helped complete a landmark
They found, among other things, that large landowners shoulder a
for it, homeowners and families pay more than they should, the study
This year, two of those volunteers from the Appalachian Land Ownership
Task Force are running for governor of West Virginia.
Both Democratic Rep. Bob Wise and third-party candidate Denise Giardina
taxes, although Giardina says it much more often and much more loudly than
Incumbent Gov. Cecil Underwood's "Agenda For Fair Taxation" doesn't
include such a proposal for large landholders, such as coal companies.
Underwood wants to eliminate several current taxes on businesses,
including the corporate income tax and the property tax on
machinery and equipment, and replace them with a single business
tax of 2 percent.
Although the state Tax Department recently reappraised coal
reserves, the total appraised value of the state's coal reserves remained
basically the same. But some counties have seen their coal reserves
devalued, while their property taxes continue to rise.
For example, Kanawha County's coal reserves were appraised at $91
million in 1996, but the value dropped to $55 million in 2000. Over the
by nearly $40,000, from $97,000 to $136,500.
"They [land values] ought to be re-evaluated, just out of fairness,"
Wise said last week. "We've gone through a couple of reappraisals, but
there's still a lot of work that needs to be done. We can do that with an
aggressive Tax Department."
Wise, a longtime congressman, hasn't made property taxes a main theme
in his campaign, though. Giardina, of the newly formed Mountain Party,
"Despite subsequent reappraisals, this situation has hardly improved,"
been challenged on numerous occasions to come up with fair appraisals, but
every administration, Democratic and Republican, has refused to make
absentee owners pay their fair share of property tax."
She also favors an "excess acreage" tax on landowners who
control more than 10,000 acres in West Virginia.
Underwood, the Republican candidate, did not return a phone call
Smart, a national voter education group, he says he would leave taxes on
mineral reserves the way they are.
Another gubernatorial candidate, Libertarian Bob Myers, would do away
with any tax on coal reserves and property, according to the survey
he filled out for Project Vote Smart.
That's not surprising because Libertarians generally favor hands-off
government in every way possible. If it's a tax, chances are Myers
wants to cut it or get rid of it. He singles out the food tax on
his campaign Web site: "There is nothing desirable about living in a state
that taxes food."