A column by Delegate Jim Butler
That budget, in a very difficult economy, paid all the state’s bills, paid employees, funded PROMISE Scholarships, paid for senior citizens’ programs, and funded programs to help people who truly need assistance.
Unfortunately, the Governor chose to ceremoniously embarrass our state and veto the budget, putting us on a path to either a state government shutdown or a special session to review the same information all over again.
This governor, while campaigning, promised no tax increases but is now putting us on a path to a shutdown over his demands for tax increases.
On Thursday and Friday of last week, the Legislature participated in a special session, called by the Governor, for the purpose of passing a budget that would please him – one that has massive tax increases. He called the special session even though there was no framework for agreement between the House, Senate, and his office.
When the Governor calls such a special session, it is he who, by law, sets the agenda. Incredibly, while there were several items on his “to-do list,” notably absent was a budget bill. Recognizing that there was no productive conversation taking place, the Legislature went into recess until Monday, May 15, to try to develop an agreeable framework for the budget.
During the regular session, there were numerous proposals to make changes to tax rates and things that are taxed by the state. One factor that is often overlooked when the Governor and legislators talk about taxes is that hard-working West Virginia people ultimately pay any tax.
Objects and services do not pay taxes! Corporations, if they can afford to operate in West Virginia, pass any taxes on to customers.
Unfortunately, the Governor demanded the largest tax increases in the history of the state, and legislators, in my opinion, spent far too much time debating whose tax plan was “better,” or the least harmful, rather than identifying and requiring that non-essential and/or wasteful spending be reduced.
Thankfully there is a significant group in the House of Delegates who recognize that West Virginians are taxed to the brink already. Even as the population of West Virginia continues to decline, government spending increases at unsustainable rates.
For 60 days, our legislators were flooded with “viewpoints” of lobbyists who represent government entities, corporations, and a number of other special interest groups who have a single focus, which is to ensure that their clients’ interests are well represented.
There is one group of West Virginians who are notably not present at the Capitol for 60 days: The West Virginia taxpayers.
You are busy working to pay for the necessities in your own life, and your representative in the House of Delegates should be defending you against an overly expensive and intrusive government.
By design we run for office every two years, and our districts are relatively small. We are closer to you, our constituents, and we should be responsive to you, whom we represent.
We can absolutely pass a budget – again – that pays all our bills, has modest reductions, and that uses resources available to us to avoid additional tax increases on the people of West Virginia.
We are working our way through a difficult economic situation, due in large part to policies that have severely damaged our state’s major industries. But coal production is beginning to make a comeback, natural gas reserves are tremendous, and we have made policy revisions in the last few years that will greatly help our economy as it recovers and diversifies.
Statistics show, and we all instinctively know, that we have a more expensive government than we can afford. In fact, our state government has doubled in the last 20 years. If we are not going to make responsible decisions now, when we simply cannot afford it, when will we ever do so?
It is an honor to represent you in the House of Delegates. Please continue to pray for The United States of America, and for The State of West Virginia as we make decisions that are important to all of us.
Delegate Jim Butler, R-Mason, is a member of the House of Delegates representing the 14th District, which covers portions of Mason and Putnam counties. He is an assistant majority whip and serves on the House Finance Committee.