Sunday, August 14, 2005

Does Helmick Really Think We Have "STUPID" Written on Our Foreheads?

WV Senate Finance Committee Chairman Walt HelmickSenate Finance Committee Chairman Walt Helmick just can't help himself. Day after day, he repeats the same self-contradicting talking points in opposition to any and all tax cut proposals: Pay the pension debts first--all of them--then and only then even consider cutting taxes. Today, his message appears in the Beckley Register-Herald (article no longer available online). Do Helmick and his cohorts in the legislative leadership of the Ruling Party really think we, the people of West Virginia, believe them? Or do they think we all have "STUPID" written on our foreheads and will buy this load of male bovine excrement, let the Legislature forego cutting taxes with a promise of appropriating that money toward accelerated debt reduction, and then watch as the Legislature passes spending increases with the money they said they would apply to accelerated debt reduction?

The Ruling Party cannot be trusted to keep a promise like the one they would like you to think they're extending. Of course, that would only be the case if they were actually making such a promise. The fact, however, is they're not even making such a promise but have cleverly phrased their talking points to make us think they're doing so. They have made no promise to forego new spending--as the flip side of foregoing tax cuts--to pay for accelerating the paydown of the pension debts. As I said Wednesday, the state is proceeding under a 40-year structured amortization of this debt based on a schedule of annual payments that we are meeting and will continue to meet even if our economy remains as it has been, for the next 30 years.

It would be one thing if the Ruling Party was asking us to forego tax cuts and them to forego more spending by adopting a constitutional amendment restricting the growth of state spending other than debt payments. However, they are not doing that and would not be permitted to do that by their own constituencies. Do we really think they're planning to do something responsible and pay for the proposed public employee pay raises by identifying and cutting other excesses in government? Or is it really the case that these raises plus whatever other programs are on the drawing board are to be financed with the money we're being led to believe would be applied to accelerating the payoff of the pension debts because the leadership of the Ruling Party knows that if the people are offered the option of tax cuts or more spending (and no other options), we would overwhelmingly choose to keep some of our tax dollars?

The people of West Virginia are yearning to keep more of their own money. Our economy suffers from high taxes, a complicated tax code, and lavish corporate welfare that excessively meddles with the economy. We would be willing to accept some tax cuts and some acceleration in the debt payoff if the future growth of government is constitutionally limited as Colorado has done and Ohio may do soon. Until then, the Ruling Party's rhetoric is nothing more than a ruse to try to prevent us from demanding they reduce the amount of money we're now spending to finance a state government that is larger per capita than 47 other states and all 10 Canadian provinces.