CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – This week on Inside West Virginia Politics, the 85th session of the State Legislature is now in session and some major topics circulating conversations are tax reform, education and the Mountain State’s economy. We talk with legislators, an economist and an activist to discuss what these issues mean for West Virginia.
IWVP: Talking taxes and education in the WV State Legislature
In Segment 1, House of Delegates Majority Leader Amy Summers (R-Taylor County) joins us to talk about tax reform and the conversation of possibility eliminating the state income tax. She says if the tax were eliminated or phased out, it would bring more people to the Mountain State and put more money in the pockets of those who are already here.
Summers also says the Education Savings Account, which would allow parents to set aside money for their child’s education, tax-free, and possibly send them to private school. The controversial topic has been brought up by the legislature before, but Summers says this time it’s the parents starting the conversation.
IWVP: What bills will resurface this legislative session?
In Segment 2, State Senate Minority Whip Mike Woelfel (D-Cabell) weighs in on the importance the legislature is placing on tax reform and how the state needs a plan to make up revenue lost for any repealed taxes. Woelfel says he thinks the legislature’s first order of business, however, should be financial relief in the pandemic, especially for the small businesses who have lost business and much of their revenue.
The senator also discusses some previously controversial bills that have come up in previous sessions and failed and how those could resurface in the supermajority legislature. He says the minority party’s goal is to work with the Republicans to pass legislation that benefits West Virginians.
IWVP: Bringing jobs back to West Virginia’s economy
In Segment 3, we look at the economics of the state’s political system with Professor John Deskins, Ph.D., director of the West Virginia University Bureau of Business and Economic Research.
Deskins says due to the pandemic, the state suffered the biggest economic shock it has ever seen with 94,000 jobs, or 13% of jobs, lost over the course of two to three months. Since the state started reopening, about 57,000 of those lost jobs have now been added back. According to Deskins, a major way to help the state’s economy is to make West Virginia more attractive to potential businesses and entrepreneurship.
IWVP: Why are Education Savings Accounts controversial?
In Segment 4, Education Savings Accounts have been a topic of discussion at the state legislature before, and a controversial one, however, legislation surrounding them has yet to pass. Jason Huffman, state director of the West Virginia Chapter of Americans for Prosperity, joins us to talk about why his organization wants them passed.
The ESAs would allow parents to set aside money for their child’s education, tax-free. This would also give them the opportunity and funding to look into private schooling. Huffman says the ESAs would help ensure students have access to the education that’s right for them.
The big argument that has made the ESAs so controversial in years past is will they pull funding away from the public school system and its students while helping fund private schools?