Mark Muchow, deputy revenue secretary, said it's hard to say how much tax revenue could be lost without knowing how many businesses would apply for the credits. More jobs could be created through the bill that were not in the state before, so the benefit could outweigh the lost tax revenue, Skaff and Basile argued.
"View this legislation as a big Petri dish. We're going to make a sophisticated bet on what's next," Basile said.
Bets don't always work out: Skaff and others admitted there's no guarantee any tax credit plan will create new jobs. Basile pointed to a sunset clause in the bill, so that the credits would no longer exist by 2030 if the program isn't working.
There are also "claw back" provisions in the measure: if a company initially qualifies for the tax credits and then fails to meet all of the obligations (by going bankrupt, for example) the state has the opportunity to go back and try to recoup any lost funds from the entity.
It's pretty rare when the state tries or succeeds in getting those funds, Muchow said, citing his own experience from days with the tax department.
Delegate Josh Nelson, R-Boone, was perhaps the most outspoken supporter of the bill. The freshman delegate was recently tabbed by the coal lobby during an industry symposium as one of its biggest assets in the House, according to a recent story in the State Journal. But Nelson, a former coal miner, said the business world needs to be realistic.
"I'm the biggest coal guy that we have, but we've got to diversify," Nelson said. "We need to attract new business. I think the first thing we need to worry about is job creation, not tax revenue that might come in."
Skaff agreed. He said he doesn't know how many businesses are waiting at the borders for this bill to pass, but he does think its another avenue that could help industry grow or relocate in the state.
The idea came up during last year's Legislature as well. The House passed the bill but it died in the Senate Finance Committee. Skaff said he's optimistic for the bill's chances this year.
Senate Finance Committee chair Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, said Wednesday there were close to 15 tax credit bills that came through his committee at the end of session last year. It was too much to digest without further study -- the committee called on the West Virginia Budget and Policy Center to study the impact of tax credits on the business world, Prezioso said.
The study found the state isn't always getting the bang for its buck when it comes to tax credits, Prezioso said. He pointed to Senate Bill 39, which calls for a statement attached to any piece of legislation outlining its short-term and long-term impact on jobs.
Prezioso said he didn't know the particulars of Skaff's measure, but said his committee still has its hands full with Senate legislation. The bill is slated next for the House Finance Committee.