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Find compromise with tax reform

We regularly forget the lessons we learned as children from the tortoise and the hare. Slow and steady wins the race. But politicians have been rewarded for ideas that are big, exciting — and immediate. Instant gratification makes a better impression with voters than having to play the long game.

In the case of West Virginia’s dueling plans to phase out the state personal income tax, House Bill 3300 appears to have several advantages over Gov. Jim Justice’s proposal. It is a more moderate approach that would phase out the personal income tax by $150 million each year for more than a decade, depending on revenue streams. It creates an Income Tax Reduction Fund that would be used as a buffer in years when revenue is disappointing. And it does not raise consumer sales and use taxes or excise taxes, remove sales tax exemptions or create a tax on “luxury” goods.

“It’s a slow, moderate common-sense approach to give tax relief without raising any taxes or shifting any taxes,” House Finance Committee Chair Eric Householder, R-Berkeley, said Monday. “It also is a great tool to control the rate of growth in spending in state government.”

It has its drawbacks, of course. It is, indeed, a slow process; Justice, during his final few years in office, will see little progress made in reducing state taxes. It will not make West Virginia immediately attractive to workers who might look to locate here and telecommute. It also will not provide immediate incentive for those working in Washington, D.C., to relocate to the Eastern Panhandle — where the cost of living is less.

The House plan is moderate, slow and boring. It does not provide instant gratification. But it also doesn’t immediately shift the tax burden.

Justice is not a fan of the House plan. He believes West Virginians are missing an opportunity if we don’t go for his ideas to eliminate the tax in “a very, very short period of time.” He’s enlisted former state Senate President Bill Cole, R-Mercer, to help push his message.

“Hopefully the collective minds come together, and we get what is a great answer and a great piece of legislation at the end,” Cole said Wednesday.

Indeed. There are good things about both proposals that could be worked into a third idea, if all parties are willing to compromise.

Meanwhile, lawmakers who have the best interests of all West Virginians in mind will remember just because something can be done quickly, and with a big splash, does not mean it should be done that way.

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