By The Associated Press undefined
Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:
The Herald-Dispatch on repealing personal income tax:
West Virginians are like people in any of the other 49 states. They would like to get by with paying less in taxes. This year Gov. Jim Justice and the Legislature are trying to oblige them, but not in the most responsible way.
On Tuesday the House of Delegates passed HB 3300, which phases out the state personal income tax in annual increments of at least $150 million per year. It is a plan drafted in response to Justice’s desire to eliminate the personal income tax entirely. Knowing that is not feasible in one fell swoop, Justice instead wants the Legislature to reduce the income tax by 60% this year. He would make up for part of the lost revenue with increases to other taxes and fees, including the consumer sales tax.
Now HB 3300 goes to the State Senate, which can adopt it, amend it, reject it or ignore it. Among the bills the Senate is considering is SB 600, which basically is Justice’s plan. Perhaps “considering” is too strong a word, as SB 600 was referred to committee but never brought to a floor vote.
Thus the Senate may choose to amend HB 3300 and negotiate any differences it has with the House.
As noted here before, there doesn’t seem to be widespread demand in West Virginia to reduce income taxes or to increase sales taxes to make up for income tax cuts. Exactly who is clamoring for these cuts, and why? What state services do they want to live without?
And that leads to other questions. Would this plan or the governor’s plan really convince people on Wall Street — or in Charlotte, Pittsburgh or Des Moines — to relocate to the Mountain State? Would either provide the means to accelerate the speed at which public service districts can extend water and sewer service to areas that need it? Would either enable the Division of Highways to patch, pave and ditch public roads at a speed greater than that at which they are deteriorating?
In other words, do these plans really satisfy the needs people say they want addressed? So far no one has provided hard evidence they do. In that case, why is the Legislature spending so much time on them?
Many people are more concerned with federal income taxes than state income taxes. At the state and local level, consumer sales taxes and property taxes (real and personal) are of greater concern. Personal property taxes, such as those on vehicles, are of more concern to people deciding whether to live in border counties or across state lines.
If legislators really want to meet voters’ expectations regarding taxes, that is where they should put their attention.
The Intelligencer on a proposed gun rights bill:
State Sen. Rupie Phillips, R-Logan, may have thought he was scoring extra points with a little distraction when he told another media outlet “I think this is a very good chance for us to stand out ground on our Second Amendment rights,” while discussing Senate Joint Resolution 1.
SJR 1 is grandly titled “Protection of the Right to Bear Arms Amendment.” It would amend the state constitution to prohibit “county or municipal governments from enacting ordinances, acts, resolutions, or rules that are contrary to, or more restrictive than, state law governing the sale, transfer, possession, use, storage, taxation, registration, licensing, or carrying of firearms, ammunition, or firearm accessories.”
Here we go again. Another effort by so-called conservatives to try to keep the elected officials of the local governments in this state from doing what they believe is right for their constituents. It has absolutely nothing to do with protecting the Second Amendment. Though, it should be pointed out our state Senate Judiciary Committee passed four gun measures in about an hour recently. One would think they have no more pressing matters to address.
Here are the sponsors of SJR 1: Sens. Eric Tarr, R-Putnam; Patricia Rucker, R-Jefferson; Phillips; Patrick Martin, R-Lewis; Amy Grady, R-Mason; Rollan Roberts, R-Raleigh; Bill Hamilton, R-Upshur; Robert Karnes, R-Randolph; Michael Maroney, R-Marshall; Randy Smith, R-Tucker; Jack Woodrum, R-Summers; Mark Maynard, R-Wayne and Michael Azinger, R-Wood.
Many of those senators are supporting other, similar efforts to expand and centralize government — to take control away from ordinary West Virginians and put it in Charleston.
Perhaps they are hoping you won’t notice this one, because they’ve dressed it up as a gun rights bill. They are wrong, of course. All this would do is expand the bureaucracy and make sure you know they don’t trust your judgment in electing local officials.
When we look for legislation and discussion that will give us hope, they tell us we don’t know what’s good for us.
Voters will not forget that.
The Charleston Gazette-Mail on a proposed bill to establish an intermediate court of appeals in the state:
A bill to establish an intermediate court of appeals in West Virginia seems likely to pass the Legislature and then head to Gov. Jim Justice for a signature.
Republicans controlling the Legislature have been trying to establish the court for five consecutive years now, but there was always enough bipartisan opposition to keep it from happening. That was before the GOP had supermajorities in the House and Senate.
As we’ve said before, the appeals court is completely unnecessary in a state of only 1.7 million people, especially with the number of appeals and the West Virginia Supreme Court’s caseload continually dropping. The intermediate court is just a way for big businesses and corporate interests to stall out and financially wreck civil plaintiffs, or intimidate people wronged by such interests from even pursuing a case.
It also will cost the taxpayers millions of dollars to operate and maintain. In fact, it’s estimated that the court will need $5.7 million annually in operational costs, including paying each judge on a three-judge panel a yearly $142,500 salary.
The concept makes neither legal nor financial sense, but that hasn’t stopped the legislative supermajority this session.
The cost raises another question, though. The Senate is now mulling a House bill to repeal the state income tax. It could stick with the House plan of reducing the tax by $150 million each year, amend the bill to fit more with Gov. Jim Justice’s plan of cutting the income tax by 60% in the first year, and then eventually repealing it, or go with its own bill.
The Legislature also has passed a broad school voucher program that will dole out public money to West Virginians who want to place their children in private schools or home school them.
The Legislature wants to cut state revenue in the form of tax breaks, but wants to add services like vouchers and an intermediate court. Where is the money for a new layer of judicial government going to come from? Justice’s income tax reduction plan makes up for only some of the lost revenue, and it does so through massive tax hikes elsewhere. The House bill doesn’t include any new sources of revenue.
Repealing the income tax is a big enough gamble that, while helping the wealthy, will have middle-income and poorer West Virginians paying an unfair share of the tax burden, and will reduce state funds. Adding more operations to the state is a sure way to bankrupt West Virginia.
The only way to avoid sinking would be to make massive cuts elsewhere, which will further hurt quality of life in a state that has been losing population for seven decades. And even that is no guarantee that the money needed to run essential services in West Virginia won’t bottom out.