By: Ashtun Welling
Governor Jim Justice has proposed a new way to close W.V. budget gap. Justice gave a “left” and “right” to get the state where it needs to be. The “left” side balances the budget without crippling the state. The “right” side will produce jobs which will help citizens get back on their feet and contribute to the state economy. Justice desires to find a way to do both. The “left” has $50 million in possible cuts, which he does not want to do, although he will do what is necessary as long as it doesn’t cripple us.
A new tax that has been proposed is to benefit health of West Virginians by taxing soda and cigarettes. Soda would be taxed 1 cent per ounce and cigarettes would be taxed 50 cents per pack. This “sin tax” will include any and all nonalcoholic beverages, whether carbonated or not, such as soda water, natural fruit juice that contains any additive syrups or sugars. Natural fruit or vegetable juices won’t be including as long as no sweeter is added.
In case the plan with these tax increases does not pass Justice has thought about alternatives to fix the state’s budget. The “left” side would also increase the consumer sales tax from 6% to 6.25%. Also, on apart on the “left” side Justice mentioned an S.O.S ( Save our State) fund that would consist of taxes on people who make more than $200,000+ a year.
The “right” side of the plan would lower the gas tax instead of the 10 cents to 4.5 cents. Also, the “right” side follows a road plan that would lead to 48,000 immediate jobs and a driving fee. It would offer an $8 EZ-pass to all W.V. who wants to drive on the Turnpike. The toll for the Turnpike would be raised to $4 for others. Half of the money would go to paying for the Turnpike, and the other half would go towards the all the other roads. This also means the Department of Motor Vehicles fees would go up from $30 to $50 with inspections every three years. This proposal also means doubling the maintenance fund from $150 million to $300 million for repairing roads, potholes, and bridges.
The governor is continuing to work on fixing the budget gap. Members of the Finance Committees are working carefully to review the proposed budget to identify how it will save us. Their work will yield additional ways to increase efficiencies and save taxpayers money. They are committed to making a working budget plan passed before their before the session on April 8th.