Sunday, January 22, 2017

State Republicans in La-La Land Over Looming Crisis

Mitch Carmichael being sworn in as West Virginia Senate president

The ruling Republicans in Charleston are steadfast in sticking to their foolish "no new taxes" pledge. Unfortunately, West Virginia is facing such a horrendous budget shortfall that to dismiss a tax increase is not only foolhardy but outright stupid.

In recent years, the state dramatically slashed taxes -- mostly for corporations and the wealthy -- to the tune of over $400 million dollars, on the claim it would kickstart the state's economy by spurring business and creating new jobs to fill the void left by coal mining's decline.

Anyone around during the Reagan years can tell you trickle-down economics didn't work for the country then -- and they didn't work in West Virginia, either. In fact, the state's job count shrank.

West Virginia is facing a $400 million shortfall next year. New Senate President Mitch Carmichael recently told his peers:
Our state is in trouble. There is no way to sugarcoat it or make it less unpleasant. Our citizens have the lowest per-capita income in America and are some of the poorest in the country.
Senate Minority Leader Roman Prezioso added:
We now face some of our most critical issues. Our fiscal stability is no longer on steady ground. Our once-banner bond rating has slowly eroded. Our education and health systems, only to mention a few, are grossly underfunded. Our roads are crumbling. Our workforce participation is at an all-time low and we lead the nation in drug addiction.
The state legislature returns to work on February 8. Most Republicans have chosen to believe that the $400 million budget hole can be plugged by more cuts to state government.

New Governor Jim Justice recently stated that the affairs of the state need to be run as efficiently as possible to realize every last dime possible in savings, before asking residents to assume the burden of a tax increase. He is obviously correct. He is also a realist when he considers an increase in taxes.

Republicans, unfortunately, want to cut healthy tissue from the bone instead of just excising the fat. Our state cannot sustain much more in the way of cuts to state services and programs. There isn't $400 million in savings there. Period.

Wasting valuable time and taxpayer dollars on nonsense sessions dealing with "God, guns and gays" is why the shortfall ended up being kicked down the road last year -- after the GOP attempted to raid the state's rainy day fund to make up the difference.

Legislators need to tackle the budget first and foremost when they return to Charleston.

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