Tax Reform: Legislature has its work cut out for it

Some members of the West Virginia Legislature may have enjoyed a few grim, knowing smiles during the past several weeks, as they watched work on a federal tax reform bill. Been there, struggled with that, they may have thought.

Conservatives have attempted during the past two regular sessions of the Legislature to gain consensus on state-level tax reforms. Their goal was to spur economic development by making the state more appealing to businesses that could bring jobs here.

But, as both the Mountain State reformers and their counterparts in Washington understand, coping with foes in the other party — Democrats in both cases — is only half the battle. Getting all Republicans on board was exceedingly difficult in Congress. It proved to be unachievable in Charleston.

State Senate Majority Leader Ryan Ferns, R-Ohio, said last month, the reformers will try again during the upcoming session.

Ferns expects the third time may be the charm. Because balancing the state budget is expected to be easier next year, lawmakers will have more time and energy to focus on improving the tax code, he explained.

And, it may be easier to get the House of Delegates, state Senate and Gov. Jim Justice — now a Republican after starting his term as a Democrat — to agree, according to Ferns.

Let us hope so. Tax reform is one need that makes it more difficult to expand West Virginia’s economy. There are other challenges, to be sure, but this is one that, if overcome, will make an important, perhaps decisive, difference.