What a Taxing Week!
Conservatives are constantly harping about their desire for small local governance – except when they don’t. Too many examples this session to list them all but one of the whoppers is HJR 3, a proposed amendment to the WV constitution to give the Legislature more control over county property taxes with the intent to slash taxes paid by big corporations like oil & gas drillers, coal and manufacturing. It was the subject of a public hearing today (March 29th) at 8AM and will be up for a final vote on Wednesday. This tax giveaway will blow holes in county budgets which funds schools, fire and police, libraries etc. Why? Because big corporations (with well financed lobbyists) don’t want to pay their fair share to keep our communities safe and healthy. A similar proposal, HJR 7, is on track for passage in the Senate. Oppose both of these with this action link from the WV Center on Budget & Policy.
Wizard of Tax
HB 3300 was originated and scooted out of the House Finance Committee this week and may pass to the Senate before you read this. It is evidently the House’s response to the very unpopular income tax shift proposed by Governor Justice.
This one is actually worse! Instead of backfilling with other taxes, HB 3300 just waves the magic wand and “poof” they disappear with NO plan to fill in the deep, deep hole blown in our state’s budget!
Kansas Comes to WV
In February, the featured speakers at the WVCBP Budget Breakfast were two Republican state lawmakers from Kansas who were part of elimination and subsequent reintroduction of their income tax. Here are direct quotes from their warnings to our state’s legislators:
From Kansas Representative Don Hineman:
“As an elected Republican and a former House Majority Leader, my message to my counterparts in West Virginia is simple: if you wish to reduce taxes, understand what you are doing before you do it. Have a plan. Do not expect that simply cutting taxes will magically produce economic prosperity. It did not happen in Kansas and it will not happen elsewhere. Things are never so simple.
“Remember that government at its core is a service provider, and if desperate budget cuts compromise the core missions of state departments and agencies, then the citizens and the businesses of the state will suffer.”
From former Kansas Representative Duane Goossen:
“The idea that the largest source of revenue in the budget structure can be eliminated — taken to zero — without significant offsetting tax increases and debilitating spending cuts is just not credible. The idea sounds wonderful at the beginning, but plays out badly.
“Kansas went down that path and paid a very steep price. I hope West Virginia does not find itself on a similar path. I hope you can benefit from our story, and I wish you much wisdom — and realism — in your upcoming deliberations.”
Toto, we’re not in Kansas! So, PLEASE West Virginia, let’s not repeat their failed income tax experiment!
HB 3300 is a nonsensical approach to our state’s challenges and we agree with the Republican legislators from Kansas that it won’t work. Cutting revenue with no replacement downsizes our government by taking a cleaver to it, and a lot of people will be harmed. There is no magic bullet or magic tax cut that will usher in prosperity in West Virginia. It will take much more creative and rational efforts. Contact your lawmakers, tell them to ‘Pay no attention to the governor behind the curtain,’ and vote no HB 3300!
The Bad Idea Factory
The delegate that represents the district where our Dixie Street office is located often calls the Legislature ‘the bad idea factory’ referring to the volumes of bills proposed which would do more harm than good. This opinion is echoed in reporter Phil Kabler’s Sunday column entitled: “A Drumbeat of Dunderhead Ideas”. Phil has been reporting on the Legislature since the 1990s so he has some history to compare this session with others.
Crossover Day – March 31st
A significant day for all 2,029 bills that are now in process comes up on Wednesday. Nicknamed ‘Crossover Day’ it’s the deadline for normal bills to pass out of their house of origin and move to the other side. If they don’t, they’re considered defunct. This deadline cuts both ways, killing off tons of terrible bills and way too many of the ones we’d like to see passed. Backing up in the process, bills must have been passed out of committee and to the floor on Monday to be read three times and passed on Wednesday. So if any bills you are watching/working aren’t out of committee by now they’re likely toast. Note: leadership has ways to keep bills moving past this deadline by amending whole bills into others that have crossed over, ect. Such is the power of the majority.
Two Good Bills May Make Crossover
Among all the terrible stuff that is going down under the Dome, two bills look like good candidates to make it past Crossover Cay. The first is HB 2266 that allows Medicaid to expand coverage to new moms up to one year postpartum. It passed out of House Finance last week and is up for passage in the House Tuesday. Another was HB 3310, an energy freedom bill to allow Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) originated in House Judiciary on Friday. PPAs would enable homeowners, small businesses, churches and other nonprofits to contract with third parties to get solar panels on their properties without going into debt for the cost of the installation. Both of these bills will have to be taken up by the Senate to make it to the Governor’s desk.
Bill Count: 64 Passed So Far
As of this writing, 32 House and 32 Senate bills have made it to the Governor’s desk. There will likely be more piled up there by the time you read this. Check out the link to see which ones are there and what, if any, action the Governor has taken on them.
First, Do No Harm
HB 2982 passed the House and is double referenced to Senate Health then Judiciary. It forces doctors to give information to patients seeking a medical abortion with major questions on the bill’s legality, potential harm to patients, a lack of FDA approval, and outcry from local healthcare providers stating its lack of safety. Members of both Senate committees need to hear from concerned citizens on this one.
Child Custody Moves to Senate
HB 2363 passed the House last week and is single referenced to the Senate Judiciary. Reach out to Senate Judiciary members with the message to let the judges decide in the best interests of the kids and vote NO.
Criminal Justice Deform
HB 2017 at 391 pages is a major rewrite of the criminal code. Meanwhile the Sentencing Commission created by the Legislature has not yet submitted its recommendations. Our recommendation that this does not pass and to let the commission do its work. It’s on the House floor for first reading on Monday so may pass to the Senate on Crossover Day. Message your Delegate(s) and ask them to vote NO.
Countdown to April 10th – Can We Count on You?
As we look forward to the end of the 2021 legislative session, we want you to know that, even though the state ends its sausage making on April 10th, exciting federal programs will be moving in DC and our senior senator is a key vote in moving most everything. As such we’ll be pivoting to put much more of our focus on some very promising legislation.
The For the People Act will roll back many states’ new attempts at voter suppression. The THRIVE agenda will create tens of thousands of new jobs in WV by helping us ‘Build Back Better’ and greener. Your green energy by the way of new and renewed member donations will give us the springboard to jump into these exciting campaigns! Thank you in advance for your support.