OP ED COLUMN: Tax Reform Committee Is Covering All Ground

Updated 2 years ago Special to HuntingtonNews.Net
Sen. Mike Hall
Sen. Mike Hall

By Delegate Eric Nelson, Jr., R-Kanawha, and Senator Mike Hall, R-Putnam

More than four months ago, the Legislature created a Joint Select Committee on Tax Reform made up of seven Senators and seven Delegates, representing various geographic regions of the state, to review a topic that affects nearly every West Virginian: Taxes. Our mission was to review the current tax structure and seek to simplify, make fairer, provide for economic growth opportunities, and produce sufficient revenues to fund basic state services such as education, roads, and health care.

 

In our seven meetings so far, we have covered a tremendous amount of ground. We have reviewed how West Virginia’s tax structure got to where it is, and we have also reviewed the two most recent studies of tax reform undertaken in 1999 and 2006. In addition, we have reviewed what other states are doing to ease the tax burden on their citizens and improve their business climates. We’ve heard from economic experts from Marshall University, West Virginia University, the National Conference of State Legislatures, and the Tax Foundation, to name a few. The Committee has analyzed personal income taxes, business taxes, real and personal property taxes, and municipal and county taxes. And, we’ve just scratched the surface!

 

One of the concerns we most often hear and read about is the misconception that the Committee on Tax Reform has a predetermined agenda to eliminate certain taxes and the corresponding revenue to the state budget. Let us, as Chairmen of the Committee, take this opportunity to put that issue to rest. When we started this journey of tackling tax reform, we did so openly, with no predetermined ending. We wanted every idea to be on the table, and we are approaching every topic with a clear and open mind. We want to thoroughly examine this issue from every angle to make the decisions that are right for West Virginia and our citizens, period.

 

The Committee has a great deal more information to consider in the coming weeks and months. In upcoming meetings, we will examine special consumption/insurance/gaming taxes/special revenue items (September 15), and on October 5, property tax assessment and school funding issues. Then, on October 20, we will hold a public hearing in the House Chamber to give groups and individuals the opportunity to share with the Committee their thoughts on West Virginia’s taxation system and how to improve it. Any thoughts can be sent to the Committee at tax.reform@wvlegislature.gov.

 

As the Chairmen of this Committee, we encourage you to participate. Don’t wait until October 20. Every meeting is open to the public, you are encouraged to attend. Throughout this process, the Committee has worked diligently to ensure this

process is transparent. Meeting agendas are posted online in advance so citizens can see the topics, and every document and presentation given the Committee has been posted on our website -- www.legis.state.wv.us/Committees/interims/Committee.cfm?abb=tax. You, the public, are seeing the information we are seeing and using to help guide our decisions.

 

If you’re unable to make it to Charleston, you can listen to the meetings via the Legislature’s website – www.legis.state.wv.us. Additionally, presentations to the Committee have been videotaped and are available at the West Virginia Senate’s official YouTube channel -- www.youtube.com/user/wvsenate. If you missed a meeting, or want to catch up on the work the Committee has done so far, these are great resources with which to begin.

Above all, we encourage you to contact your Delegates and Senators. Share with them your ideas on how we can all work together to improve West Virginia’s tax structure. We are working toward a brighter future, and we need your input to do it.

 

Delegate Eric Nelson, Jr., R-Kanawha, and Senator Mike Hall, R-Putnam, are the Co-Chairmen of the West Virginia Legislature Joint Select Committee on Tax Reform. The Committee can be reached at tax.reform@wvlegislature.gov.

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