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Southwest Virginia lawmaker proposes tax reform legislation

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A Southwest Virginia lawmaker is submitting a tax reform proposal. He believes it will benefit the poorest counties in the Commonwealth.

The bill's sponsor, Delegate Will Morefield, said while parts of Virginia are advancing, rural areas are being left behind.

All localities in our region would qualify under the proposal, except for the City of Bristol and Washington County. Statewide, the unemployment rate is about four percent. Numbers we obtained from the bill show southwest Virginia's at more than 5.5 percent.

Southwest Virginia is nearly double the state's poverty rate. Statewide, population has increased. However, it has decreased regionally.

Morefield said solving this problem requires recruiting businesses and providing incentives for employees.

There are 17 localities that would qualify for corporate and individual tax relief under Morefield's proposal. They are in a state of desperation for industry. Buchanan County may be in the most dire of circumstances. It has the region's highest unemployment rate of 8.1 percent. The poverty rate in Buchanan is nearly 29 percent. The county has lost 28 percent of its population since 1990.

Morefield represents Buchanan County. He said something has to be done to promote business economic development. His tax reform proposal suggests offering out-of-state and pass-through entities corporate tax relief. It would also relieve those employees of personal income tax for a period of 10 years.

The businesses and employees would be required to locate in one of the 17 qualifying jurisdictions, invest $5 million in property, and create 50 jobs.

"Those unemployment rates, poverty rates, and population decline far outweigh the state average. So what we're trying to say is things are going to get worse, we have to tailor make a major policy initiative specifically for Southwest Virginia and Southside Virginia," Morefield said.

He said the option would also be available for existing businesses to meet the requirements.

Morefield will present the proposal in the next legislative session. That begins in January.

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