The Herald-Dispatch. January 11, 2023.
Editorial: Gates cautiously optimistic about WV’s energy future
Microsoft founder and clean-energy investor Bill Gates brought a dose of optimism and a dose of realism to Appalachia when he visited Charleston on Monday.
The optimism is that West Virginia can take advantage of the move away from coal and toward cleaner sources of energy. The realism is that it won’t be as short a process as many people expect it to be.
As noted by HD Media reporter Mike Tony, Gates told his audience at the Clay Center that the transition to clean energy is a long-term challenge.
“It won’t be solved halfway through your career,” Gates said in response to a question from a Marshall University student about her generation’s role in a clean energy economy. “It will take your entire working lifetime to achieve this.”
Coming from someone of Gates’ standing, that should be taken as a warning to not expect too much too soon. Government officials want to rid our roads of the internal combustion engine. They have set goals for eliminating the sale or manufacture of such vehicles within the next 20 years. But is that realistic? Where will the electricity to power those vehicles come from?
Before his talk with Sen. Joe Manchin and Marshall University President Brad D. Smith at the Clay Center, Gates visited the former Kanawha River Power Plant at the town of Glasgow, about 20 miles east of Charleston. That coal-burning plant was retired in 2015 because retrofitting it to meet new emission standards taking effect at that time was not feasible.
Gates founded the nuclear innovation company TerraPower, and nuclear dominated his conversation with Manchin Monday.
“This will be much cleaner, and it’ll be extremely safe,” Manchin pledged, speaking of next-generation nuclear technology that proponents have touted as a means of transitioning coal-fired plants to nuclear generation.
In 2021, TerraPower announced it would build an advanced nuclear reactor demonstration project in Wyoming near a coal-fired plant scheduled for retirement in 2025. Other companies worldwide are looking at small modular nuclear reactors as an alternative to traditional large-scale nuclear plants and as an alternative to coal, natural gas and renewables. Nucor Corp., which is building a steel mill in Mason County, West Virginia, has invested in a company that also is developing a small modular reactor for a trial run.
The energy future Gates envisions for West Virginia goes beyond nuclear and includes natural gas.
“It’s good news for West Virginia that you have natural gas,” Gates said, predicting that natural gas use would continue because of its role in some carbon capture and hydrogen production projects.
Manchin played a role in getting the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Inflation Reduction Act through the Democrat-controlled Congress last year. Those acts provided incentives for Gates to invest in next-generation energy projects. Among them is Form Energy, which plans to build a factory in Hancock County to manufacture batteries that can store electricity for 100 hours at costs competitive with old power plants.
When all was said and done, Gates explained how this region can profit from the coming change in energy production, but he also provided that necessary dose of reality that this change will take longer than some would like if it is to be done correctly.
The Intelligencer. January 11, 2023.
Editorial: Tax Reform Must Be 2023 Priority
Both state Senate President Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, and House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, appear to understand that it’s going to take careful maneuvering this legislative session to handle just how to allocate the expected $1.8 billion in excess tax revenue.
There are many variables involved, such as the possibility the surplus looks much bigger because estimates used to craft the current fiscal year’s budget were low-balled, the possibility that natural gas prices will slip back down, and the number of bureaucrats and public officials who will have their hands out.
While those will be factors, here’s today’s reality: West Virginia is sitting on nearly $2 billion in surplus funds, and as the Legislature gavels in for the 2023 session, meaningful tax reform needs to be on the agenda.
West Virginia has the highest personal income tax rate in the mid-Atlantic region. We continue to force businesses to pay taxes on equipment and inventory. And we require residents and business to pay annually for the privilege of owning a vehicle or other personal property.
These taxes and others have held the state back for generations. The time for meaningful tax reform to take place is now, when it can be done from a position of financial strength. Lawmakers and the governor should not waste this opportunity.
Addressing concerns from some that the surplus is manufactured, state Revenue Secretary Dave Hardy on Monday said revenue growth for the month of December 2022 was up 9% compared to December 2021. Year-to-date revenue growth was up 21.2% from 12 months ago. Severance tax growth was up 113% for the past year. And year-to-date personal income tax revenue growth was 13.6%, corporate net income tax growth was 11.8%, and consumer sales and use tax growth was 5.8%.
Those are all strong indicators that the state’s the economy is moving in the right direction. Lawmakers should move quickly this session to pass meaningful tax reform for West Virginians.
Parkersburg News and Sentinel. January 6, 2023.
Editorial: Big Plans: Tax reform will take teamwork
Gov. Jim Justice is a skilled politician. He knows exactly what he’s doing when, a week before the speech, he lets slip that his State of the State address will include some big plans.
“I want everybody to stay close and tuned in to what we say that night,” Justice said Wednesday. “We’ll be outlining a state that is really, really going in the right direction.
“We’ll be announcing the biggest tax cuts in the history of this state hands down,” Justice said. “Hopefully, things will move right through the Legislature, and we will be able to pass on those tax breaks and tax cuts to celebrate all the goodness that has been happening to West Virginia.”
He didn’t go into details, of course. Where’s the flash in that? But he did hint that he understood his theatrics mean nothing if lawmakers don’t play along.
“I think when you see my tax plan and everything that will be coming out really, really soon, it will be different, but it will be a plan that I hope we can embrace,” he said.
There it is. A few who did not embrace Justice’s previous plans will have to play along this time, if his hopes are to be realized.
Make no mistake West Virginia is in desperate need of tax reform. Almost no one argues that.
It’s the manner of reform that is in question, and Justice has some convincing to do in the state Senate. He appears to believe he’s already got the support of the House of Delegates.
“Absolutely we can compromise,” Justice said. “At the end of the day, nobody has the perfect answer. Only God above has the perfect answer.”
He’s going to have to compromise, as are lawmakers. This is a job that must be done for West Virginia. Once the grand announcements are out of the way, Mountain State residents can only hope the governor and the Legislature are ready to get to work.