This past Saturday at midnight, the West Virginia Legislature adjourned sine die after a long sixty days. Going into the session, the WVCBP team’s single largest goal was to protect the personal income tax, our state’s fairest tax and its largest source of revenue. We are thrilled to say that we, in coalition with many partners, successfully did just that, providing credible research and analysis on four different proposals to eliminate the state personal income tax. On the second to last day of session, the tax bill officially died after being voted down 0-100 in the WV House of Delegates.
We also worked to highlight the importance of investment in public services and programs funded by the income tax, particularly in the wake of the pandemic. Ahead of the session, we released a report on how austerity harmed our recovery in the years following the great recession. We showed how previous tax cuts have failed to produce growth but did lead to significant disinvestment in higher education and public health, which harms our ability to provide basic resources and ladders of economic opportunity for our residents.
In the coming days and weeks, we plan to share recaps of the final state budget, tax bills, health-focused legislation, and criminal justice bills to highlight how their passage or failure will impact West Virginians and our state’s economy. But for now, we wanted to extend our sincerest thanks to everyone who called their representatives, sent an email, shared one of our analyses, or otherwise took action during this unprecedented legislative session. Together we prevented massive tax shifts from the wealthiest West Virginians to everyone else and severe cuts to the public services that make West Virginia a place where families and businesses will want to locate.
The work is not done yet. Governor Justice has promised to keep fighting to eliminate the personal income tax, and we will need to continue our work to protect these critical revenues. So stay tuned!
SB 387 was passed by both chambers of the WV Legislature and was received by Governor Justice on Tuesday, April 13. The governor has 15 days from that date to sign or veto the bill.
SB 387 would make applicants who test positive for drugs or refuse a drug test ineligible for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) assistance. Our blog post from health policy analyst Rhonda Rogombé explains how such a policy choice will further stigma, harm vulnerable populations, and contradict public health best practices:
“Rendering benefits contingent on passing a drug test for individuals otherwise eligible for cash assistance does not meaningfully address substance use problems. Instead, it does quite the opposite — drug screening creates barriers for those who may otherwise seek treatment.
“In a state already riddled with budget shortfalls, dedicating resources to an initiative that further stigmatizes individuals with low incomes — while worsening their material conditions — contradicts the core mission of TANF and other social programs, as well as best practices for public health. Rather than punishing TANF recipients by extending the drug screening program, West Virginia must recommit to providing basic assistance to families. Redirecting funds toward these initiatives would better serve low-income families and help create a healthier West Virginia.”
Please join us in urging Governor Justice to veto this harmful and stigmatizing legislation. You can call him at 304-558-2000.
In the next several weeks, the first of $677 million will be distributed to county and city governments throughout West Virginia. The goal of this money is to support local efforts to recover from the widespread devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, but how the money is spent will largely be up to the local government in question. With your help, we can create a list of priorities that center the needs of those most impacted, and a group of folks to advocate for the aid that is most needed.
We want to hear from YOU.
How do you think your local government could spend this funding? What areas of your city have suffered the most from the pandemic? What kinds of investments will help your community long term? Let us know by filling out this survey.
There are no wrong answers, and please share this survey with anyone whose input you’d like to see considered. We appreciate your thought and time!
WVCBP’s Summer Policy Institute (SPI) is an annual event for college students and young people interested in bettering West Virginia through policy change. SPI brings together highly qualified traditional and non-traditional college students and young people to build policy knowledge, leadership skills, and networks.
Attendees participate in interactive sessions where they learn the basics of data, policy, and state government and build their organizing and advocacy skills. Throughout the convening, attendees work in small groups to identify and develop policy proposals to shape the future they want to see in West Virginia, culminating in team “policy pitches” to state legislators and policy professionals. Many SPI attendees have gone on to continue advocating for their policy idea and to hold internships with West Virginia non-profits and in state government.
Applications for SPI are being considered through April 30. Further details and link to apply here.
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