The average price of a gallon of gasoline is $3.72. What can we do?

Senate Bill 624 is moving forward at the Legislature, but the Charleston Regional Chamber of Commerce is asking for your help to ensure it becomes law.

This proposed legislation will advance new infrastructure for natural gas vehicles and allow local, county and state government to save taxpayer dollars by converting their vehicle fleets to cleaner burning natural gas.

With the recent Marcellus and Utica Shale gas discoveries, natural gas has become important commodity in West Virginia. As a result, natural gas could be utilized as a cleaner, alternative fuel.

If this legislation passes, it could lead to tremendous things for West Virginia taxpayers and our state and local governments.

The rising price of gasoline

According to CNN, gas prices climbed on Tuesday to a nationwide average of $3.72 a gallon. Gas prices are projected to reach the $4-$5 a gallon range this summer. By ensuring that state and local governments can convert to natural gas, fleet vehicles will be less dependent on gasoline fuel. The savings could be enormous for the governments and the taxpayers.

Jobs

If this legislation passes, new infrastructure for natural gas vehicles will create new jobs.

Saving the taxpayers money

By making the tax credits transferable for governmental bodies, the state of West Virginia could save a minimum of $5 million a year in fuel costs, if it utilized the tax credit to convert to a natural gas fleet.

Natural gas is a cleaner alternative

Natural gas is simply cleaner than standard transportation fuels used today.

Conclusion

Natural gas conversion has been the focus of Kanawha Converts, a consortium of local governmental and business leaders, economic development, energy, and education agencies. The consortium was created through seed funding by the Kanawha County Commission for compressed natural gas (CNG) as a vehicular fuel for its fleet vehicles.

Currently, SB 624 is on its third reading in the Senate with the right to amend. The Charleston Chamber of Commerce would oppose any amendment to the legislation which would weaken the provisions within the bill.

The Chamber believes this bill is essential to achieving the goals or creating new jobs and saving the taxpayers money. If you agree, call your legislator now and ask them to support and pass the bill in its current form.

Charleston Chamber wants your support for alternative fuel tax credits

The Charleston Regional Chamber of Commerce is asking members of the public to voice their support to West Virginia legislators and get Senate Bill 624 passed.

The legislation would authorize the sale and transfer of tax credits allowed for the purchase or conversion of alternative fuel vehicles and the construction of alternative fuel vehicle refueling stations.

The bill would allow the tax credit in existing law to be transferable, even for governmental entities. If this legislation passes, it could lead to tremendous savings for West Virginia taxpayers and our state government.

By making the tax credits transferable for governmental bodies, the state of West Virginia could save more than $5 million a year in fuel costs. That’s if the state utilized the tax credit to convert to a natural gas fleet. Under a federal program that expired in September 2011, governmental entities were allowed a 50 cents per gallon excise tax credit for alternative fuels even though governmental entities did not have to pay federal excise fuel tax.

Prior to the expiration of the credits, governmental entities were able to use it to help pay for the cost of conversion. Allowing the transferability of the state alternative fuel vehicle tax credit would help replace this lost assistance.

With the recent Marcellus and Utica Shale gas discoveries, natural gas has become important commodity in West Virginia. As a result, many in the state believe natural gas could be utilized as a cleaner, alternative fuel.

Natural gas conversion has been the focus of Kanawha Converts, a consortium of local governmental and business leaders, economic development, energy, and education agencies. The consortium was created through seed funding by the Kanawha County Commission for compressed natural gas (CNG) as a vehicular fuel for its fleet vehicles.

The Chamber believes this bill is essential to achieving that goal. If you agree, please contact the Senate Finance Committee at (304) 357-7961 and each member of the Senate Finance Committee and encourage them to pass Senate Bill 624.

Brains for Business bill passes huge hurdle at Legislature

After two years of hard work, the Charleston Regional Chamber of Commerce’s backed Brains for Business bill has passed a huge milestone at the Legislature.

On Wednesday afternoon, the bill (Com Sub HB 4475) was passed unanimously by the House Finance Committee. The legislation would help attract and retain young people and encourage higher education completion rates in West Virginia.

The bill would provide tax credits to West Virginia residents for the first two years after they receive an associate, bachelor’s or advanced degree from an accredited institution. It received strong support in the West Virginia Senate during the 2010 and 2011 legislative sessions, but has never achieved this milestone.   The Chamber would like to specifically thank the bill’s lead sponsor, Del. Doug Skaff, the other sponsors of the bill and House Finance Chairman Del. Harry Keith White for their work. Also, a big thanks to all the members of the committee for their support (a full listing of the members can be found HERE).

The bill is slated for the House floor this week. If approved, it will then head to the Senate for final passage. We encourage our constituents to let their delegates know that they support the Brains for Business bill.

Other Charleston Chamber supported legislation is gaining steam and making headlines this week at the Legislature.

Representatives in the House of Delegates are working on the West Virginia Innovation Free-Trade Zone Act of 2012 (HB 4547). The Charleston Chamber backed legislation focuses on policies to encourage investment in businesses that create high-value jobs, diversify the state’s economy and promote sustainable growth.

The bill allows tax credits credits to new or expanded businesses that employ 21st-century business technologies and create new jobs with good pay (minimum $50,000 annually/ job) and health insurance benefits.

Currently, the bill is being discussed in the House Energy, Industry and Labor, Economic Development and Small Business Committee.

The Charleston Chamber also supports legislation that would authorize the sale and transfer of tax credits allowed for the purchase or conversion of alternative fuel vehicles and the construction of alternative fuel vehicle refueling stations.

The Chamber believes this legislation would ensure governmental entities are able to take advantage of tax credits when they convert to alternative fuel vehicles, and would encourage natural gas fueling stations in the state by making natural gas fuel a new capital investment. The legislation is being discussed in the Senate (SB 624).

The Charleston Chamber will continue to work with our legislative leaders on policies that will support job creation and build stronger communities in coming weeks, and keep members informed of critical issues that will impact our future.

Call to Action: Funding for Transportation, Arts, Landscapes and Historic Preservation Threatened

Federal funding that supported some of the most beautiful aspects of this region is under threat. Now it’s up to the you to ensure this drastic funding cut is not implemented.

The U.S Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in the U.S House of Representatives will be meeting tomorrow, Thursday, Feb. 2. During that meeting, the transportation enhancement funding could be eliminated. The funding has been a vital economic development tool for this region. About 10 percent of funding states receive for federal transportation projects must be set aside for enhancement activities such as trails, biking and pedestrian projects, the arts and historic preservation.

These funds have supported many key development projects such as trails, Capitol Market, St. Albans Streetscape, Kanawha Boulevard Riverfront Development, Washington Street Streetscape, Mary Price Ratrie Greenspace and the Point Pleasant Riverfront Murals.

Rep. Tom Petri of Wisconsin plans to introduce an amendment to ensure the funding does not get cut. Please urge the West Virginia representatives on the committee, Rep. Nick Rahall and Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, to support Petri’s amendment.

Local communities need the opportunity to improve their transportation infrastructure. All of us recognize the need for a local investment in safer streets and healthier communities.

If you’d like to support the effort, please contact Aaron Pritchard in  Rep. Rahall’s office at 202-225-3452 and Andrew Stasioski in Rep. Capito’s office at 202-225-2711 today.

Charleston Chamber agenda moving forward at Legislature

The West Virginia Legislature is moving forward with Charleston Regional Chamber of Commerce approved bills, including one to provide economic incentives to businesses that locate a facility (commonly known as a “cracker”) to convert natural gas into ethylene.

Last week, SB 206, (HB 4086) which provides property tax relief to companies that invest at least $2 billion towards a cracker was signed by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin. It becomes effective on July 1.

The bill provides for a 25-year tax break to crackers, and would level the playing field for West Virginia in its quest to recruit a facility.

Construction of a cracker would require an estimated $2-$3 billion in capital investment and generate upwards of 2,000 construction jobs, and several hundred permanent high value jobs at the facility. It would help revitalize the state’s chemical industry and spark significant “downstream” production resulting from the ready access to ethylene.

The Charleston Chamber strongly supports measures to ensure West Virginia is competitive with others, including Ohio and Pennsylvania, that are vying to bring a cracker to their states.   In other action, support is gaining for the Twenty First Century Business Technologies Property Valuation Act (HB 3040). The Chamber backed legislation focuses on policies to encourage investment in businesses that create high-value jobs, diversify the state’s economy and promote sustainable growth.

Currently, the bill is in the House Energy, Industry and Labor, Economic Development and Small Business Committee. After that, it’s slated to be introduced to the Finance Committee.

The Chamber continues to push for legislation to attract and retain young people and encourage higher education completion rates in West Virginia. For the third year, the Charleston Chamber is championing a “Brains for Business” bill that would provide tax credits to West Virginia residents for the first two years after they receive an associate, bachelor’s or advanced degree from an accredited institution.

The bill received strong support in the West Virginia Senate during the 2010 and 2011 legislative sessions. Earlier this month, the Kanawha County Commission threw its support behind the bill with an official resolution.

The Charleston Chamber will continue to work with our legislative leaders on policies that will support job creation and build stronger communities in coming weeks, and keep members informed of critical issues that will impact our future.