Taxes are how we pay for the things we do together for our communities, our families, and our economy. Working together through government allows us to accomplish things that are vital to us in West Virginia and that we cannot do alone. Our roads allow us to get to work each day and they allow businesses to move their products to market. Our schools educate our children and strengthen our workforce. Our police and fire fighters keep our neighborhoods safe and the safety net protects us when we fall on hard times.
Recently, however, we have not taken the necessary steps to make sure we invest in what makes families strong and creates jobs. About six years ago, our state made tax policy choices that have shaped state policy ever since. At the time, our economy was stronger and we were experiencing large surpluses. Tax cuts seemed like a good idea to many. However, as we argued at the time, when you cut taxes at the state level you can almost always count on corresponding cuts to programs and services at some point. And this is exactly what has happened. In 2007, we started cutting the corporate income tax and have been gradually eliminating the business franchise tax. All together, these tax cuts have cost us close to $150 million per year and nearly $200 million once full implemented.
The state also eliminated the food tax over this period, which will cost an estimated $175 million next year. We also let our estate tax vanish with the federal estate tax, losing around $20 million per year. Meanwhile the governor’s FY 2014 budget cuts services and programs by $75 million, including nearly $35 million in higher education. Meanwhile, tuition is skyrocketing and debt is piling up on the backs of our college students.
Over the next several days, the legislature will be considering the state budget. While there will be little changes to the bill, for reasons we’ve documented here, the budget is the single most important bill we pass each year. It will directly shape our economy and impact each one of the state’s 1.8 million people.
We know that a modern economy needs a quality transportation system to function, and ours is at risk. We also know that the ability of a state to create and attract jobs that pay good wages depends on having a well-educated workforce. Investments in both of these areas can strengthen our economy by allowing our people and businesses to be more productive.
For this to happen, we need to stop wasting money on inefficient business tax cuts that drain wealth out of our state and start by investing in our children, our communities, and our economy so we can build a broadly shared prosperity and help move the state forward.
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