Look West, anti-tax man

On June 18 the News and Sentinel printed a very thoughtful letter from Dr. Fletcher Lamkin, President of WVU-Parkersburg. Dr. Lamkin expressed his disappointment with the legislative decision cutting $16 million out of WVU’s budget. However, he reassured his readers that WVU-P would continue delivering quality education despite the changing conditions.

Anyone reading letters to the editor on June 18 only had to look one print column to the right of Dr. Lamkin’s thoughtful letter and they would have discovered nine paragraphs of typical Republican anti-taxation gibberish written by Mr. Jim Mullen. He was demanding West Virginia not raise taxes to balance the budget. He suggested anything was better than higher taxes, including a cut in state employee headcount.

Mr. Mullen said our state bureaucracy is, “bloated, inefficient, disorganized and corrupt.” Really? Maybe Mr. Mullen should print the names of all those “inefficient, disorganized and corrupt” state employees. I’m sure all of our school teachers, clerks, highway workers, secretaries and state police are eager to learn if their names are on Mr. Mullen’s list of corrupt employees.

The Republican legislature cut $16 million out of WVU’s budget and then allocated $14 million to subsidize dog racing near Charleston. That’s legislative insanity.

Everyone knows we have a state budget shortfall. Coal production is headed south and it’s not going to recover. Reduced coal-severance revenue has cut deep into state finances. So what’s the solution?

Firing state employees serves no good purpose. Suppressing taxes, because Republicans demand lower taxes, can also be counter-productive. Our problems are much bigger than those narrow minded ideas.

The problem is, we’re faced with the daunting task of building a new state economy that doesn’t depend on coal. The sooner we get started the better. Instead of whining about taxes, conservatives should be studying California to see if it’s possible for WV to emulate some part of the California economy. California has some of the toughest regulations and highest taxes in the nation but the California economy is absolutely booming with a 3.29 percent growth rate. That’s double the growth rate of the other 49 states and greater than the growth rate of the world’s six biggest national economies. Apparently, regulation and taxes don’t hurt prosperity in California.

Conservatives would have you believe that’s not possible.

Maybe Mr. Mullen, with his boundless insight into government finance, can explain that anomaly.

Ralph Chambers