Job killer: Lawmakers should reject tax proposal

The Inter-Mountain editorial

West Virginia needs to reinvigorate our economy, Gov. Jim Justice believes. He outlined some of his ideas for doing so Wednesday, during his State of the State speech.

Unfortunately, through $600 million in tax increases, the governor’s plan is more likely to reinvigorate the state bureaucracy than to cause a surge in economic activity.

Virtually any new tax is a job killer. Economists understand that. Too often, politicians don’t.

Though Republicans who control the Legislature have vowed to fight tax increases, pressure to approve at least some will only grow during the next eight weeks. The state’s budget is far, far out of balance.

One danger is that some of the governor’s proposals will be scrapped in favor of other tax increases that may sound more palatable politically.

One of them, recommended earlier this month by Ted Boettner of the liberal West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, is to revive the state’s inheritance tax. At one time, it raked in as much as $25 million a year, Boettner said.

Such taxes go by other names, including “estate tax” and “death tax.” The terms provide an idea of what such taxes do: When people die, the estates they leave behind can be taxed. That means they can leave less to their families.

Though few individual West Virginians leave estates big enough to be taxed that way, many small business owners do.

Estate taxes mean men and women who have dedicated their lives to building up small enterprises — the lifeblood of our economy — cannot leave them intact to their children or other descendants. By the time “the tax man” is finished, it often is not financially possible to keep such businesses in operation.

They die, too, taking jobs with them.

Justice and lawmakers should reject Boettner’s suggestion — unless they want to deal a severe blow to the state’s economy.

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