Photo Credit: Perry Bennett West Virginia Legislative Photography
Details are important. No one can deny that, however, it's hard to sympathize with legislators who shoot down every idea that can help the people because of small details without putting forward any ideas of their own.
We've heard time and time again from leadership at the legislature how Natural Gas is the next big thing in West Virginia's economic growth. Of course Coal is still King, but gas is starting to look like a close second.
But when the conversation turns to using this new economic boom to help West Virginia's teachers and public employees, suddenly our leaders at the legislature aren't so sure about Gas's prospects.
Increasing the severance tax has become a popular idea among teachers and public employees who want assurance the state will stabilize health insurance costs. They see natural gas as a healthy part of West Virginia’s economy that is often subject to export.
The topic arose again Wednesday during a meeting of the PEIA Task Force, which generally agrees that funding the insurance plan will cost an additional $50 million a year, every year.
“Increasing the tax might get you the $50 million you need to cover increased costs next year, but where will you get the $50 million to cover increased costs the year after that? Or $50 million more the year after that?” House Finance Chairman Eric Nelson said.
“Even if the tax revenue remains stable — which I doubt — you’d still have to raise taxes again each year down the road to cover costs, so this is not a viable, long-term solution.”
No one can know the future, but all signs seem to say that gas is here to stay. Why is our legislature so afraid to use this new natural resource to help pay our teachers for the work they do?