Some politicians want us to blame immigrants or environmental regulations for the financial pain that many of us are feeling. But the truth is that our state legislature and federal government have been quietly betraying us by cutting taxes on corporations and the rich while piling them on for individuals and families, especially those with lower incomes. The gap between the richest and poorest West Virginians has been getting larger and larger since the 1980’s. Today, 13.4% of all income earned in our beautiful state goes to the richest 1%. Meanwhile, West Virginians who make below $30,000 have higher state and local tax rates than those making over $700,000. Many of us are feeling the effects of that right now as we file our taxes.
Last month, the situation got even worse, when our lawmakers cut severance taxes on steam coal and added new tax credits for coal companies. This will result in an estimated $100 million going back to Arch Coal. Following market trends, companies like Arch Coal are unlikely to create many long-term coal jobs in the state. But instead of using this $100 million to invest in growing industries, entrepreneurship, or training for working West Virginians, our state lawmakers used it to line the pockets of coal company executives and shareholders.
It’s time for us to elect leaders whose top priority isn’t “rob the many to pay the few,” but to give working West Virginians a fair shake in our economy. And it’s time for our leaders to be honest with us about who’s really benefiting from our tax system.