Preparing for the budget shortfall: What type of tax is best?

Published: Oct. 11, 2016 at 5:46 PM EDT
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The impending state budget shortfall has the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy drumming up solutions to keep us afloat. But which tax options do you think outweigh others and what areas should definitely not see budget cuts?

The center has suggested different tax options for coming up with revenue and has ideas about what should be protected from cuts, like higher education. In Lewis County, unsurprisingly many of you don't like the idea of any taxes at all, but you do have preferences with them.

Senior Policy Analyst Sean O'Leary says everyone is affected by the state budget every day. It pays for roads, schools, services, and when it comes to cuts nothing is safe. Some of the revenue options the center suggests go back to a sales tax on telecommunication devices or a tobacco tax. Or what about a soda tax, a sales tax on digital downloads, or a higher natural gas severance tax?

They want to raise money to avoid cuts, especially more to higher education.

"We're looking probably around a $350 million budget gap next year," O'Leary said. "And to get that number, to get to $350 million, that's the kind of actions you need to take, those are the size and the cuts that you're not just reducing funding for some of these areas, you'll probably just have to eliminate them."

A local business owner says a gas severance tax would be something to consider, but a tobacco or soda tax wouldn't only negatively affect low-income people, but also businesses.

"It puts also another burden on the business because basically, we are the collector of that tax. So it's more forms, more work for us to take care of all that stuff," said Ray Smith.

But others believe a tobacco tax would be more beneficial. One woman remembers this situation last legislative session and thought of something else.

"Maybe an extra tax on alcohol," said Jill Wiant. "It's something that people don't have to have and so if you want it you have to pay the tax. I really, really hope they don't go with a higher food tax."

She says that would hurt a lot of people, but a woman who works on the budget for Lewis County brought up the same idea and says a food tax would work well because it would affect everyone.

"If you're trying to raise revenue it's easier if everybody pays it versus a few different groups," said Debra Hull.

However, she says expenses should be cut across the board to "trim the fat" everywhere before looking at creating revenue.

If you're part of a group that wants to give the Center on Budget and Policy your feedback, learn how in the video above.