On the table in our state legislature:
Tax breaks for the richest and an empty plate for you and me
On February 26th, I shared my deep concerns in a blog here about Governor Justice’s proposal to eliminate the state personal income tax and bankrupt our state. Since that time, variations on his proposal have been popping up like poisonous mushrooms after a spring thunderstorm.
The proposal that is poised to pass today in the West Virginia House of Delegates, HB 3300, is the same bad idea made more complicated to read but not hard to understand. If you want to read all the gory details, check out the excellent analyses by our colleagues at the Center on Budget and Policy.
As an economist, I have read the bills with my mouth open in total disbelief. HB 3300 is the worst state bill I have seen in 30 years of working with states across the country on budget and health issues.
While there are differences between the Governor’s proposal and HB 3300, the bottom line is crystal clear: give a huge tax break to the very wealthiest and in turn, blow a huge hole into the state budget that will force painful cuts to every state-funded critical public service you can think of.
Do you care about:
- Medicaid (“the medical card”)
- The state Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
- strong public education and quality teachers
- higher education and college scholarship programs
- clean water and regulated sewer systems
- clean air
- well-maintained roads and bridges
- open parks and recreational centers
- improved internet connectivity
- services for kids in foster care
- drug addiction intervention programs
- quality hospitals and emergency services
- adequately funded policy and fire departments
- food support programs?
And so much more. Not to mention the ability of our state to test for COVID, pay for treatment when needed, and distribute free COVID vaccines.
If you care about any of the list above, then you must oppose HB 3300 and any other versions that will pop up to wipe out the state personal income tax for the wealthiest West Virginians. And leave the working guy or gal behind.
The supporters of this insanity seem to be ignoring the fact that you cannot reduce state revenue by almost half without bankrupting the state government. They argue that without the state personal income tax, people will be lining up to move to West Virginia. This is simply bull crap and malarky. I chose to return to West Virginia eight years ago, and I know many professional small business owners who are considering a relocation to a rural area in this new age of virtual internet connections. Why do they want to move to a rural area? I, and no one I know, has ever had the state personal income tax rate on their list of top considerations when choosing a new home and office location. Rather, they are looking at many of the factors enumerated above – that HB 3300 will put at grave risk of decline.
The West Virginia House of Delegates Finance Committee passed HB 3300 and it will be up for a vote before the full House TOMORROW (Saturday May 27). And the vote was scheduled for today but it was postponed.
It may pass. But this fight is only beginning.
The Finance Committee passed the bill before holding a public hearing on HB 3300. Then responding to requests for a hearing, the Committee held a one-hour public hearing that limited speakers to 90 seconds (yes West Virginians can talk fast when they need to). No questions were asked, no exchange of arguments, no debate.
While I deeply respect West Virginias who choose to be public servants and take on the responsibility of serving in the state legislature, the process of advancing HB 3300 has made a mockery of democracy. It has failed to give the voices of hardworking regular folks a chance to understand what is going down and speak-up.
But it's not too late. Please participate in real democracy and learn about HB 3300 and other proposals that will inevitably pop up in the Senate.
And contact your state legislators – Delegates and Senators – and ask them to slow down and think through what is important to YOUR family. Ask them to think realistically about why people would choose to relocate to wild, wonderful West Virginia.
Click here to send an email to all your representatives at once. Phone calls are also important, and all contact info is available at wvlegislature.gov. Thank you for caring.