George Hohmann: Income taxes cut elsewhere
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin told MetroNews Talkline host Hoppy Kercheval on Wednesday that the state is in for a tight financial year but he won't propose any tax or fee increases when the Legislature convenes Feb. 13.
That sounds good until one learns that nine states have no income tax, two have lowered their income tax rates in the last two years and the governors of several other states have announced they want to lower their income tax rates.
Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman summed up the reason behind this wave of reform. A Wall Street Journal editorial quoted him as saying, "How many of you have sons and daughters, grandchildren, brothers and sisters and other family members who no longer live in Nebraska because they couldn't find a job here or they couldn't find the right career here in Nebraska?"
The Journal said Heineman "believes eliminating the income tax -- with a top rate of 6.84 percent -- will make the Cornhusker State a new magnet for jobs."
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal wants to eliminate his state's income tax, which has a top rate of 6 percent, plus the state's 8 percent corporate tax, replacing them by increasing the state's 4 percent sales tax, the newspaper reported, adding that Jindal "would also eliminate some 150 special interest exemptions from the sales tax."
Governors Heineman, Jindal and Pat McCrory of North Carolina "cite the growing evidence that states with low or no income taxes have done better economically in recent decades compared to states with income tax rates of 10 percent or more," The Journal said.
West Virginia's personal income tax rate tops out at 6.5 percent on income over $60,000. Here's how we compare to border states: Pennsylvania has a flat 3.07 percent tax on all income. Virginia's top rate is 5.75 percent on income over $17,000. Kentucky's top rate is 6 percent on income over $75,000. The top rate in Ohio is 5.925 percent on income over $200,000. Maryland's top rate is 6.25 percent on income over $1 million.
It's only fair to mention that Tomblin, who ran for governor on a no-new-taxes platform, has kept his promise. During speaking engagements he often gets spontaneous applause when he says, "West Virginia hasn't had a general tax increase in 17 years. No other state can say that."
In fact, Tomblin's policies have led to additional cuts in the corporate net income tax and allowed the state to continue on a path to eliminate the business franchise tax and the sales tax on food. Also, he's worked to address the state's long-term liabilities without a tax hike.
Tomblin has held down fees, too. In 2011 he vetoed a bill that would have raised the fees the Division of Motor Vehicles charges by a total of $43 million a year.
But West Virginia's political leaders haven't tackled the state's tax on equipment. Instead the state and various county governments carve out special deals whenever a project promises lots of jobs.
And no one is talking about lowering West Virginia's income tax.
Reach George Hohmann at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4836.