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New revenue is crucial to the state

As lawmakers, lobbyists and members of the press gathered virtually last week for the annual West Virginia Press Association Legislative Lookahead, a familiar phrase popped up — quietly and infrequently, but it was there.

Once again, Republican lawmakers are going to be “finding inefficiencies” in state government as they look for ways to make their big legislative project — a phase out of the personal income tax — revenue neutral.

” … We have no intention of taxing the people of West Virginia more money,” said state Senate President Craig Blair, R-Berkeley. “In fact, we’re trying to make it so that it’s less. …”

Wonderful. But that simply doesn’t happen unless lawmakers do an exceptional job of both finding new revenue streams and “finding inefficiencies” — i.e. truly attacking the waste, fraud, incompetence and redundancy to which King Bureaucracy clings.

Missing this year during the meeting with leadership of the state Senate was any mention of the state’s many boards and commissions. Only a couple of years ago, weeding out the unnecessary and expensive posts within those boards and commissions was all the rage for lawmakers who said they were sweeping in to change the way things had always been done in Charleston. The trend faded quickly. Why?

“If we’re talking about growing revenue streams in the state,” said Blair, “we gotta make it so people want to live here!”

Precisely. And that means making a distinction between the parts of the bureaucracy that do exist to serve the people of this state — improving it in a way that also makes it attractive to visitors and potential new residents — and the parts that exist only to serve themselves.

West Virginia cannot simply cut its way to prosperity. New revenue streams must be found. But lawmakers know quite well where there is still a great deal of fat to trim in state government. If they are serious about reaching their stated goals this year, they must gain the fortitude to do it.

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