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Community leaders: Tax reform should work for all West Virginians

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Community leaders: Tax reform should work for all West Virginians
By Mandi Cardosi, Government Reporter, The State Journal

While legislators debated tax structure on one end of the Capitol, education, faith and community groups met on the opposite side to talk about what to expect.

Dale Lee, president of the West Virginia Education Association, said it’s important to remember that the state can’t increase taxes on low and middle income families.

“West Virginia is facing tough times economically, and we’ll see more difficult days ahead,” he said. “Now is not the time to add to generous business tax cuts.”

He also said the focus should be on retaining residents like qualified teachers, and keeping students safe with a better infrastructure.

“We want our students to get to school safer and that involves working on our roads. To think, our bus drivers have to take kids over those roads, dodging pot hole after pot hole is just something that needs fixed,” he said.

Lee said education groups hope to get a tax system that supports these goals.

Senate Minority Leader Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, said by providing tax cuts to large companies and businesses, while it may have worked for the state in the past, is the wrong way to go for the future.

“I will absolutely resist any type of increase to the people of this state,” Kessler said. “I think it’s time for us to start investing in our people and our infrastructure.”

Kessler said that any type of change in sin taxes is likely going to affect the “most vulnerable and least able to absorb cuts.” He said while business tax cuts came under Democratic leadership there is now no corresponding growth.

“It was the right thing to do at the time, we were trying to regenerate our economy,” Kessler said. “We need to start investing in our people, if that requires increasing some taxes then that’s the way to go.”

Kessler said he will campaign on raising the tobacco tax again, something he has pushed in the past.

Ted Boettner, executive director for the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, said he doesn’t understand why his group hasn’t been asked about the state’s tax structure during joint committee meetings.

“We know more about tax policy than anyone else in the state,” he said. “One thing I know for sure is that working families haven’t been part of that discussion.”