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There is good and bad with tax proposal

One of the main discussions coming out of Charleston this week is a proposal to phase out the state’s personal income tax.

This was a topic raised prior to the legislative session beginning, and was put forward during Wednesday’s State of the State.

I’m going to guess it’s something which will be kicked back and forth over the coming weeks as lawmakers look at the options before them while putting together the state’s budget.

Now, I’m all for lower taxes. That means, at least theoretically, we have more of our hard-earned money to spend as we see fit.

The problem with government officials making promises of lower taxes is there seldom is thought about the larger effects on our society. If you lower taxes and don’t find other reliable revenue streams, then funds for a variety of services and programs are going to disappear.

That could mean schools, highways, tourism, social services and more would have to go without the money they need to operate. Those are only examples, of course, there’s no guarantee those specific programs would face cuts, but, hopefully, you get the idea.

So, the other option usually is to increase other taxes and fees, and possibly mix in a couple of budget cuts. What we’ve heard, so far, is an idea to increase the consumer sales and use tax by 1.5 percent, as well as increase taxes on tobacco and soda, removing exemptions for professional services and creating a wealth tax. That means, while we, eventually, won’t be paying a personal income tax, we will be paying more for other things. So, in reality, there’s a shift in how they’re getting our money, but they’re still getting it. A $25 million cut to state government also has been proposed.

Keep in mind, that’s just the first step as this is a planned phase-out of the income tax. More work will be needed if the tax is to be taken completely off the books.

One concern our area may have is that if some of these taxes are increased, we have options to go to another state for some of our purchases. Those of us in the Northern Panhandle already do some shopping in Ohio and Pennsylvania because of the cost. Will increasing sales taxes push us even farther across the borders? In those instances, then, West Virginia is getting neither the income tax, nor the sales tax. It’s another example of the people in Charleston not thinking geographically.

Officials supporting the proposal feel it may be an incentive to attract new businesses and residents to the Mountain State. That’s always a possibility, but with anything, it’s a risk with uncertain results. There’s no guarantee business will relocate from another state because of the eventual elimination of a particular tax.

I don’t know if these proposals are going anywhere. Democratic leadership has come out against them, but, as has been pointed out, there’s really little the Democrats in Charleston can do right now since there are Republican supermajorities in both the state Senate and House of Delegates.

Whatever the decision, no matter how it plays out, we, as citizens, will be dealing with the results — good or bad.

This is just one of many proposals going before the Legislature. However you feel, I would encourage our readers to look into all of the details and reach out to those who are elected to represent you in Charleston. They are the ones serving as our voice and should know your opinions.

(Howell, a resident of Colliers, is managing editor of The Weirton Daily Times, and can be contacted at chowell@weirtondailytimes.com or followed on Twitter @CHowellWDT)

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