In passing a home rule law that allows cities to impose a sales tax of as much as 1 percent, legislators gave state tax collectors a little piece of the action.The legislation also allows the state Tax Department to pocket as much as 5 percent of municipal sales tax revenue to cover its administrative costs.Charleston Mayor Danny Jones said while state tax officials have since assured him that they won't take the full 5 percent, the revenue from Charleston's half-percent city sales tax, if they did, would amount to $300,000 a year.Earlier, the state gave Huntington permission to impose such a tax on a trial basis.
The state charges Huntington a 1 percent fee to collect almost $1.8 million with its 1 percent sales tax. The Tax Department collected $17,776 in fees in the first 13 months.State officials say the current 1 percent fee does not cover their costs, which is why they pushed for permission to charge a fee of as much as 5 percent of what they collect.Jones said he was surprised by the addition of the fee in the bill.
But it's just one of several surprises in the measure. Lawmakers attached other strings that are just as bad.One would force cities to allow concealed weapons in parks and other places. The other restriction would force Charleston to revoke its limit on handgun purchases to one per month.Charleston enacted that limit 20 years ago to prevent the city from becoming the center of a drugs-and-guns trade.Cities in West Virginia need the power to impose taxes in new ways because they are staring at huge pension fund liabilities.The reason cities face huge pension fund liabilities is the state code. Past legislatures passed out benefits that city politicians will have to take the heat for funding.Lawmakers should give cities a say in the pension benefits that municipal taxpayers are asked to fund.And for the state to siphon off high fees for collecting the resulting city taxes is just insult upon injury.