The carrot of a 60 percent cut in our state income tax might look juicy at first blush. But we might lose our taste for it each time we pay the consumer sales tax that would have to go up nearly 32 percent. The current sales tax would rise from 6 percent to 7.9 percent.
Governor Jim Justice wants this increase as well as dozens of other tax increases while he proposals the removal of 60 percent of our state income tax.
For West Virginia cities that already have a municipal sales tax of up to 1 percent, that will make the total sales tax jump to 8.9 percent. That would put the municipal sales tax among the 10 highest in the nation.
Professionals in many occupations will no longer enjoy a sales tax exemption.
Taxes on soft drinks will go from one cent to six cents per bottle or can. Justice needs to raise $62.5 million from these drinks.
Beer will go from 18 cents to 94 cents a gallon, making West Virginia’s beer tax second only to the tax in Alaska.
Justice also wants a luxury tax on items that cost more than $5,000, but he has not said yet what those items will be. But he needs to raise $20 million a year on them.
Justice said each of us will have more money in our pockets once we are paying 60 percent less in our state taxes. Be sure to keep that money in your pocket. You will need to spend it for all the other tax increases he plans. Can we afford such a generous tax cut? It comes with disingenuous tax increases.
Never forget that state income taxes go for such essentials as clean water, roads, and schools.
Also please remember Justice still has not allocated the millions of federal dollars he received last year as part of Covid relief. In his last virtual town meeting, Justice said he wants to put the money in a bucket. The name on these dollars reads: To all West Virginians who need help during the Covid pandemic. Let those buckets get their own money.
Justice and all Republicans know that former Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback tried what he called an “experiment” in his state in 2012. The lab rats in the experiment died. National Public Radio reported in 2017 that Kansas needed $900 million to fill in their budget five years later. $900 million? That’s funny. That’s the exact figure Justice needs right now to make his math work. The plan failed people in Kansas. It will fail people in West Virginia, too.
Justice and his fellow Republicans have said this is only the first step in his grand scheme to phase out the entire state income tax. How will they pick our pockets next to make up for the lost revenue?
Please remember another number, also. Justice promised that 400,000 people from other states will come rushing over our ridgetops to become West Virginia residents as soon as the state tax income vanishes. No one rushed into Kansas cornfields after the Kansas taxes were removed.
Instead of waiting for the 400,000 to rescue us from financial disaster, please let your legislators know they should reject the magical math and take the real money for Covid relief out of the bucket and put in hands that need it.
Susan Williams is a member of the Fayette County Democratic Executive Committee.