West Virginia Efforts Toward Land Value Taxation
[A memorandum distributed to West Virginia legislators, 20 January,
GroundSwell, March-April 2007]
(Additionally, Carl Shaw and Art Rybeck (see Write On
reprint on page 4 of this issue of GroundSwell) are elected senators
to the West Virginia Silver Haired Legislature, where Rybeck chairs
and Shaw co-chairs the Finance Committee. West Virginia seniors at
the 55 WV county senior centers elect 100 House of Delegates members
and 34 Senators for 2 year terms. The positions are non-partisan,
volunteer and honorary. Those elected meet several days per year and
enact proposals which are forwarded on to the regular legislature
for their consideration.)
MEMORANDUM CONCERNING LAND OWNERSHIP
TO the January 2007 West Virginia Legislature
FROM Carl Shaw, Mt. Zion, WV, Jan. 20, 2007
1. The Creator probably made the WV land and resources for all of
us to own and use equally. Total WV land area = 15,516,160 acres,
divided by the population of 1,808,344 = 8.5 acres per person.
2. We all contribute by our presence and economic efforts toward
creating the annual site rent of land. Labor and capital construct
a) private improvements, homes, industrial plants, commercial
business, and; b) public improvements including streets, government
administrative, hospitals, schools, airports, police and fire. No
land owner generates site rent all by him/her self. Rent is a social
product and in justice must be shared by all society.
3. Any tax on land is a tax on the annual rent of land (presently
calculated on the market value, but which only exists because most
of the rent was not taxed).
4. West Virginia is about the 48th state in per capita income.
5. WV is nearly the eldest average population of all states,
because many young people migrate elsewhere for better job
6. WV unemployment and low job participation is currently at
about 5% of the workforce. No unemployment should be acceptable.
7. WV land is taxed, but at one of the lowest rates in the
nation. Only about 10% of the site rent is taxed (shared) -- all the
rest goes to private persons.
8. Land can be considered as speculated if not in use. Unused
land employs no one.
9. Taxing land creates an incentive to use. Labor and capital are
not harmed by land taxation. Land taxation implements justice by
sharing the site rent. Land taxation is economically beneficial.
10. Higher land taxation encourages its owner to find a better
way to use land, so as to bring in enough additional income to pay
any increased land tax.
11. Taxing labor and capital is a punishment for having produced
wealth. Labor and capital won't work harder just because their
sales, incomes, and profits are taxed.
12. WV taxes on labor and capital are near the middle of the U.S.
states; however, taxes on equipment is among the highest in our
13. Our state constitution tax law was written in 1932 to
encourage land speculation. Article 10 can and must be changed in
order to encourage economic activity and justice, via higher land
taxation. This will require a vote of the people. The Legislature
can begin the process.
14. Other states and nations which tax land higher do well
15. There are two methods of land tax reform. The Pennsylvania
two rate property tax, wherein the improvement part is reduced while
the land part is increased usually results in reduced tax bills for
most residential properties in residential neighborhoods.
Harrisburg, Allentown and Washington are good examples. The other
technique (psychological) could relieve taxpayer stress by billing
property taxes monthly. State income taxes are levied with each
paycheck or quarterly while sales taxes are levied on each sale.
16. New Hampshire was near the bottom of the states economically
in 1930. Tax reform there involved higher land taxes, without income
or sales taxes. Today NH is near the top of states in per capita
income, and in population increase, while last in unemployment. Land
17. Please don't ignore this all important issue. The practice of
maintaining unused and underused, valuable city land cannot continue
to be policy. We are losing young people to other states, and by
taxing labor and capital instead of land values we penalize our
economy while rewarding land hoarders. Land taxation cannot harm
genuine farmers. Those who scream about hurting farmers are actually
speculators who use farmers as an excuse to hang on to unused,
valuable city land.