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Editorial: Legislators whistling while the state burns

From The Register-Herald of Beckley:

As the state legislature runs down the clock on this do-nothing session, state revenues continue to slide, teachers continue to receive layoff notices, young professionals continue to move out of state, schools continue to close, businesses continue to turn out the lights and opioid drug abuse continues to claim an increasing number of our sons and daughters here in the Mountain State.

But, yes, by all means. Let’s expend the time and energy to pass a bill clarifying language and making corrections to the state’s right to work law – another nail in the coffin of unions in this state. Because, you know, that will fix a whole lot of what ails us, right?

Goodness gracious, people.

Here in West Virginia, we have twin financial dumpster fires burning out of control: the economy is in decline and, as a result, fewer tax dollars are flowing to state coffers.

If the GOP proposal for federal health care and President Donald Trump’s budget pass, there’s going to be more than a fistful of federal dollars missing from the calculus of what would make us whole here at home.

What they are planning in D.C. (please read related stories on both 1A and our Business front today) amounts to a super-sized container of gasoline to put out the fire. We were hoping for a fire hose – and a different kind of economic accelerant.

What is so frustrating is that everyone knows what we need here in West Virginia: revenues. And everyone knows the sure-fired way of creating revenues in a hurry: taxes.

But so few “leaders” in Charleston have shown the courage to check party dogma at the door. So many Republicans have signed a no-tax pledge to someone who owns no allegiance to this state or its citizens that it is an exceedingly heavy lift to get any kind of tax hike legislation passed. (Yes, we have legislators who are more beholden to interests outside our state than the people they were elected to represent. Shocking, we know.)

And here’s the deal: We have to come up with $500 million (give or take) just to make next year’s budget work. No way on God’s green Earth can you cut your way out of that thicket. Broad-based, across-the-board cuts have been the easy answer to right-sizing the budget these past few years and, well, here we are again, right-sizing to the point that we are cutting off arms and legs.

Gov. Jim Justice knows the state has been backed into a corner. He’s offered up a solution that asks more from everyone, including an additional tax on those people who are better positioned financially to chip in a little more.

At the same time, the governor is calling for a big investment in fixing and upgrading the state’s roads. That initiative is designed to create jobs, develop skills, provide access, boost tourism and give the state a fighting chance.

His strokes are broad but the goal is clear.

Yes, it will create a bond that the state will have to pay off on down the road. We are fine with that approach at this point in time.

You can either prescribe life-saving medicine for the patient or you can call the next of kin. We prefer a prescription that gets the state back up and running.

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