May 16, 2017

A better way to deal with WV's budget woes

There's a lot at stake in the current debate over the state budget. It could affect kids, seniors, students, veterans and working families for years to come. Below, by way of friends at the WV Center on Budget and Policy and other allies, are some simple suggestions for fixing the problem and easy action steps you can take:

The state budget fight is a complicated mess. It's time to simplify.

Right now, we have no actual bill, but the last version we saw would have included the greatest tax cut for the rich in recent West Virginia history. To pay for it, lawmakers are talking about a wide range of bad ideas: a $94 million cut to public education, complicated tax increases, and even a food tax. Even with all these maneuvers, one lawmaker told us that we should still expect to see a deficit of over $200 million as soon as next year.

There is another way. We call it the Better Budget Framework for West Virginia. For the last 3 weeks, we have been talking to citizen leaders and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle - including members of Democratic and Republican leadership.  The budget framework below represents a simple way to get out of this mess.

It includes just 4 steps:

Increase the sales tax from 6 percent to 6.5 percent.

Do what other states have done and close sales tax loopholes, by expanding the sales tax to industries that have been exempt (telecommunications, digital downloads, personal services, electronic data processing,  personalized health fitness, contracting services, technical evaluations).

Institute a fair share tax of 1 percent on income over $200,000.

Institute a refundable 5 percent Earned Income Tax Credit, for working families - to incentivize work and make the plan less regressive.

This plan would generate roughly $270 million in revenue, on par with the targets set by other plans. Here are 10 benefits of the simple, better budget plan:

1. No cuts to K-12 education.
2. No tax cuts for the rich.
3. Fewer tax increases on working families, then the latest "compromise" plan.
4. No cuts to the Promise scholarship, and no new cuts to Higher Education.
5. No cuts to public broadcasting, the Women's Commission, or the arts.
6. No government shutdown.
7. No big new deficit in 2019.
8. No complicated triggers.
9. No food tax increase or other complicated tax increases.
10. No cuts to hospitals and health care.

To be clear, this budget framework is not perfect.  It's pragmatic. When we talked with lawmakers from both sides of the aisle, these were the priorities they listed. Like any good compromise, everyone will find something not to like in it -- including our own organizations and partners. We call it a framework, because some of the details could be tweaked (for instance, we'd be happy to see a sugar-sweetened beverage tax in exchange for a lower sales tax) and you would still get the same 10 core benefits.

Please click here to ask your lawmakers to sign-on to the Better Budget Framework, and help stop us from going the way of Kansas. Now is not the time for the greatest tax cut for the rich in West Virginia history.  It is not the time for complicated maneuvers.  It is not the time to subject ourselves to a decade of budget deficits.

Please encourage lawmakers to sign on to the Simple Plan.

It is up to us to Protect West Virginia!

Protect West Virginia is a grassroots coalition of more than 300 individuals and 30 organizations who oppose further budget cuts that harm our communities and who want to connect West Virginia values to state budget priorities.

No comments: