Senate bill aims to allow taxes on certain amusement events

Charles Boothe, Bluefield Daily Telegraph, W.Va.
·2 min read

Mar. 3—CHARLESTON — Legislation that is now in committee would help give counties a rare opportunity to have a means to raise some extra revenue.

Senate Bill 415 would give county commissions the authority to levy and collect an admission or amusement tax on any public amusement or entertainment conducted within county limits that is held for private profit or gain.

The bill says the tax "shall be levied upon the purchaser and added to and collected by the seller with the price of admission, or other charge for the amusement or entertainment. The tax may not exceed two percent of the admission price or charge, but a tax of one cent may be levied and collected in any case."

However, the tax could not be imposed in city or town limits that already have an amusement tax in place.

"Counties have limited opportunities to diversity to raise revenue," said Mercer County Commissioner Greg Puckett, who also is on the state and national associations of counties. "The amusement tax is a proposed bill that will help offset costs for communities."

Puckett said any extra revenue is welcome and that offset helps avoid levy increases on such things as property taxes down the road.

"Cities have the 1 percent sales tax through the Home Rule option," he said, but that is not offered to counties. "The hardest part about being a county government is that lack of diversification. The legislature controls what we can do and we have very little autonomy."

Border counties like Mercer have for years urged the legislature to give counties the option of allowing voters to decide if a meals tax could be imposed to capitalize on out-of-state visitors.

But that effort, which all commissioners support, has never advanced in Charleston.

"We have very, very little opportunity for revenue diversification," Puckett said. "This (amusement tax) could help in growing the economy."

Puckett said the details of the bill as far as what is classified as an amusement event give counties some leeway.

"It could be a variety of things, depending on how each individual county sets it up," he said, adding that is a positive for counties and the state Association of Counties supports the legislation.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Randy E. Smith (R-Tucker County), has been introduced in the Senate and was sent to the Government Organization Committee on Feb. 23.

— Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com