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Make safeguards part of tax relief

Regarding an important bill in the West Virginia Legislature, both Republican and Democratic lawmakers deserve plaudits for making their branch of government work as the nation’s founders intended. That is to say, without partisanship being the key to how issues are decided.

A measure that would give some businesses relief from property taxes has been discussed for a couple of years, now. It calls for a constitutional amendment that would have to be approved by Mountain State voters.

Proponents of a bill to authorize such a vote say it would be an important economic development strategy. In essence, it would phase out property taxes on manufacturing machinery, making our state more attractive for that type of development.

If approved by lawmakers, then ratified by voters, the change would phase out about $100 million in property taxes during a period of several years.

Though the step is being advocated by Republicans, a number of Democratic legislators have said they might support it — under one condition.

Nearly all of the revenue foregone under the measure would affect local governments, not the state. Democratic Party cynics want concrete assurances counties — including public schools — will not be hurt.

In other words, a number of Democratic lawmakers are playing the classic role of “loyal opposition” — not opposing the plan for partisan reasons but, instead, out of a desire to ensure no one gets hurt by a step intended to help our state.

Nothing in government comes with guarantees, of course. But surely proponents of the tax relief can find a way to ensure it does not become a burden to public schools and other local government entities.

Republicans pushing for the change are right to do so. So are Democrats concerned with the effect on local governments.

Surely, in that atmosphere, a compromise can be reached.

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