Opinion

Lawmakers must learn to compromise

An editorial from the Parkersburg News and Sentinel 

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — West Virginia’s budget standstill will not end unless both sides are willing to compromise and legislative leadership exerts enough influence to stop the game-playing. Earlier this week, the House of Delegates demonstrated it is incapable of either.

When some House Republicans gave in to the idea that a tax on tobacco products might be necessary – as the state is in desperate need of new revenue, many House Democrats responded by killing the tobacco tax bill anyway … because the proposed 45-cent increase was not high enough.

Those who prefer to tax as much as possible so they can avoid looking for ways to reduce spending have pushed the state a little closer to a government shutdown, and endangered the state’s bond ratings because they would rather try to force another dip into the Rainy Day Fund than add their names to the support of a tax they do not believe is HIGH enough.

Meanwhile, Speaker of the House Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, says he was in favor of the bill, but was unable to gather enough votes from the 64 Republicans in the House to defeat the Democrats’ push. Rather, Armstead said of the budget crisis, “I think it’s going to require additional discussion, and truthfully, it’s going to have to take additional involvement by the governor.”

Armstead should know better than to hope the outgoing Democratic governor will help him steer this special session – with Republican majorities in both houses – toward the outcome he seeks.

Meanwhile, legislators have to understand that if they are not willing to tax, they MUST cut spending dramatically. Lawmakers who were unwilling to be associated with either a tax increase or a tax that was too low must now be willing to attach their names to reductions in spending that could affect nearly everyone in West Virginia, to one degree or another.

More draining of the Rainy Day Fund should not be an option. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are proving political games are more important to them than solving this crisis, and must be made to find their way out of it. Surely they must know that if they are unwilling to compromise, voters will take an uncompromising look at all of them in November.

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