Budget Battle Over (For Now)

Unlike many other states such as Maine and New Jersey that are having partial government shutdowns from a lack of an approved budget, West Virginia dodged the bullet at the last possible moment. However, this is not a budget to celebrate. It cuts higher education and Medicaid and doesn’t raise enough new revenue to keep this annual fight over cuts v. revenue from playing out again next year and into the future. The WV Center on Budget & Policy has a summary of the budget battle on the Center’s blog.

The good news is it could have been much worse. For some reason our governor came out in his state of the state address sharing how he wanted to kill off the state income tax. I guess this makes sense to a billionaire. The income tax is the only progressive tax we have – i.e. the higher one’s income, the higher the percentage one pays. The Senate took him up on it and passed out a bill that did just that – building in huge deficits in future budget years that would have demanded severe cuts to social programs, education and just about everything in sight.

Many of these anti-tax legislators signed Grover Norquist’s so-called ‘Taxpayer Protection’ Pledge’ before they got elected. Makes you wonder who they are working for — West Virginians or Norquist’s conservative think tank? Norquist’s infamous quote was that his goal “is to shrink government down to the size that it could be drowned in the bathtub!”

Constant tax cuts for the wealthy are the means to force their goal on us. These neocons believe in the dogma that ‘government never works’ and the ‘private sector can always do better’. They then set out to make sure government is dysfunctional by cutting off its revenue so this dogma then becomes a self-fulling prophesy. Our goal is to keep both our state and federal government funded and functioning efficiently.

Governor Justice did get lawmakers to pass increased fees for vehicle registration and a small gas tax increase. These and the legislative approval of a resolution that would use this additional revenue to make bond payments means that West Virginia voters will have to decide if they want the state to borrow $1.6 billion for rebuilding our roads and bridges. Governor Justice now has to convince us this is a good idea. This special election is set for Saturday, October 7th. Click here for other special election dates and deadlines.

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