CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – The West Virginia House of Delegates has approved six bills including the West Virginia Industrial Advancement Act, sending them to the governor for action and to take an important step forward to make a major economic development project a reality.
Officials with the West Virginia State Legislature say passing these six bills today, Tuesday, Jan. 11 completes the obligations necessary for the state to secure a proposed business investment that lawmakers say would be “the largest project the state has ever seen.” All six of the bills passed work in tandem to make the economic development project possible.
“The time for us to argue whether economic development incentives should be utilized has long since passed,” said House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay. “Other states have been doing it for years, and our actions today help the state of West Virginia secure a seat at the table.”
Senate Bill 1001 received 91 votes and will finalize the economic recruitment process state officials say they have been working on for several months. The package of bills is expected to clinch a proposed $2.7 billion investment in the Northern Panhandle and in Mason County. The bills were fast-tracked to approval by the State Senate Monday.
“This is not a billion-dollar giveaway in any way. No state money will be spent until a company takes the first step and invests hard dollars here first. Data and our experience prove that big announcements and big investments will follow buy-in and good-faith cooperation,” Hanshaw said.
Despite their quick passage of the bills, there was some hesitancy among lawmakers. The debate today, however, wasn’t about whether lawmakers want this project or this type of industry to come to the Mountain State, but centers mostly on the money that is being used to help incentivize the development and how the state is going about it.
Many Democrats say the process has simply gone too fast simply so the governor can make the announcement tomorrow, the day of his State of the State address. Others say the money, some of which is being moved around so the American Rescue Plan funds can be appropriately used and fill in some of the gaps is money that could have gone to small business owners rather than to incentivize a well-established company.
“This kinda reminds me of going to buy a house,” said Delegate Jim Barach (D-Kanawha). “You find a house, and it’s this great house, great neighborhood, good price. You love everything about it, and your real estate agent says ‘It’s such a great deal. We want to get you in fast; let’s just ignore the inspection.'”
Officials say the project would bring in 800 full-time jobs with benefits as well as 1,000 construction jobs. The bill also creates a new section of the state’s tax code to clarify how the existing tax credits for manufacturing would apply to investments of this size.
“We are talking about $25 billion dollars. That is phenomenal for our state, and for the first time in a long time, we find ourselves competing with Ohio, Kentucky and Pennsylvania to land these manufacturers and bring them within the boundaries of our borders,” said Delegate Jonathan Pinson (R-Mason)
Another criticism some lawmakers had of the project is that they are questioning the validity of the project, considering other projects that have fallen through such as the cracker plants, ammo plant and the China Deal. One lawmaker says this project, however, is different than those because the company is a well-established company.
According to the WV Legislature, West Virginia University Economics expert John Deskins prepared an impact study on the proposed project forecasting a $25 billion economic impact with potential for as many as 5,000 new downstream jobs in the state from this project.