Senator Jay Rockefeller, a senior Member of the Senate Finance Committee which has jurisdiction over tax policy, today voted to extend a group of tax credits to help low and middle income families, improve mine safety, support economic development, and encourage school rehabilitation and construction.
The vote came after Rockefeller first tried to get the Committee to do more to help struggling middle class families.
"My priority is tax credits for low and middle income families," said Rockefeller. "This tax package is generally good for West Virginia since it includes very important benefits to make sure our miners are protected, job creation and economic growth are supported, and our communities are encouraged to upgrade local schools. While it includes more tax credits for very large businesses than I would like, it is a solid compromise. Our focus should be on instilling more fairness in our tax code and fewer giveaways for special interests. While it isn't perfect, this package is a step in the right direction."
Rockefeller specifically introduced and fought for the following tax credits which will continue through next year:
New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) - This tax credit has a proven history of promoting investment and economic growth by helping bring needed private sector capital to low-income and rural communities across the country. Since 2003, the NMTC has provided over $55 million in new investment in West Virginia projects and communities, including for local coal mines, hardware stores, and child day care services centers, among others. The NMTC has also created more than 300,000 jobs in low income and rural communities since it was created. Rockefeller wrote the original legislation creating the NMTC and fought successfully for its expansion in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009.
Mine Rescue Team Training Credit - This tax credit provides up to $10,000 for coal companies and mine operators for the training of mine rescue team members, and gives coal companies incentives to make crucial investments in equipment and training that will help coal miners return safely from work each day. A tax credit of this size offsets approximately 20 percent of the cost of preparing a miner to be ready to rescue his colleagues. Rockefeller introduced this tax credit which was first enacted in 2006.
Election to Expense Advanced Mine Safety Equipment - This tax credit enables coal companies to immediately expense 50 percent of the cost of purchasing new life-saving safety equipment to make sure miners are protected. Several types of safety equipment are eligible for the tax benefit including communications technology that enables miners to maintain constant contact with an individual above ground; electronic tracking devices that enable an individual above ground to locate miners underground at all times; emergency breathing apparatuses including devices carried by miners and additional oxygen supplies stored in the mine; and mine atmospheric monitoring equipment to measure the levels of carbon monoxide, methane, and oxygen in the mine at all times. Rockefeller introduced this tax credit which was first enacted in 2006.
Short Line Rail Track Maintenance Credit - This tax credit incentivizes short lines rail companies to invest in track rehabilitation by providing a credit of 50 cents for every dollar spent on track improvements. West Virginia is the country's second largest producer of rail ties. This tax credit would mean better, safer railroad track and more reliable, competitively priced railroad service for companies to transport their products. It is particularly important for rural areas like West Virginia where short line service is often the only railroad service available for many companies trying to ship their products.
Qualified Zone Academy Bonds (QZAB) - These tax credits are targeted to help disadvantaged communities afford school construction and renovations. Studies have shown a relationship between the condition of school buildings and the performance of students.