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EDITORIAL: Compromise and West Virginia politics

The Journal editorial

Last week’s special session of the West Virginia Legislature was not entirely useless. It served to emphasize that Republicans in the House of Delegates are opposed adamantly to unnecessary tax increases.

That should have been clear previously. But for one reason or another, Gov. Jim Justice and members of the state Senate — both Republicans and Democrats, it should be noted — apparently held out hope a tax bill on which they agreed could be enacted.

Justice had called lawmakers into special session Thursday in order to act on a state budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1. But after a day was wasted due to what may charitably be put down to miscommunication, senators approved the tax bill on Friday. It passed by a 32-1 vote.

Things went drastically differently in the House. There, the tax proposal went down in flames, 59-34.

With no reasonable hope of progress by remaining in Charleston, legislators adjourned. The plan is for them to go back on May 15.

What the governor and legislators — with leaders of both chambers, not just the Senate, represented this time — have to do is negotiate a compromise. A first step needs to be determining whether the basic Justice-Senate plan of reducing personal income taxes, while increasing the sales tax and some other revenue sources, is acceptable at all in the House.

It should not be abandoned. Tax reform is a good idea — as long as the strategy is as nearly revenue-neutral as possible. House Republicans do not view the Justice-Senate plan as such.

Legislators and the governor have one week to come to agreement. That will require intensive negotiations. Again, Justice should not rely on gaining Senate acquiescence to a plan. The folly of that approach was demonstrated last week.

It has been said politics is the art of compromise. In West Virginia, it may be said that compromise must be the foundation of politics during the coming week.

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