In the tax reform battle between West Virginia’s governor and Senate president, the speaker of the House of Delegates has remained largely silent. Until now.
The 58th Speaker of the West Virginia House of Delegates, Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, supports passing Amendment 2. He said the constitutional provision is antiquated and needs revision.
“The provision of our state constitution, that’s at issue in Amendment 2, comes from the antebellum Civil War era of Virginia. We don’t do anything today the same way we did it in 1863, so we shouldn’t necessarily have the same tax structure that we had in 1863,” Hanshaw said. “The purpose of Amendment 2 is to just give the people’s elected representatives the opportunity to discuss what the proper tax structure for this state should be. I have no idea why that’s controversial.”
Hanshaw said he sees the state on a trajectory for fairly substantial sustained budget surpluses at least over the next three to five years. He said there is merit in considering the House Finance Committee’s hybrid plan of phasing in cuts of income, vehicle, and business and inventory taxes.
“You take the proposal that would eliminate, eventually, the tax on business, equipment, inventory and personal property tax on automobiles, as well as the governor’s proposed income tax cut, and phase that in over a period of years, which is actually how most states doing this successfully have done it,” Hanshaw said. “The plan that is out there under consideration now does work mathematically. The one place where we want to really be sure we’re careful and that we’ve thought the circumstances all the way through to their end is — to what extent do we rely upon our natural resource severance taxes?”
Hanshaw said he’s puzzled over comments of losses of county school and emergency services amid a Charleston power grab. He said most legislators live far from Charleston and need the same services for their families.
“We all still want water to come out of our faucets and fire service to come to our homes when we have an emergency. We have to be responsible enough to know that,” Hanshaw said. “If the legislature wanted to make life difficult for counties and municipalities, there’s plenty of room and opportunity to do that. The legislature has plenty of taxing authority and has the ability to push any number of mandates, well thought out or otherwise, off onto the counties. And we don’t do that because we live here too, so that argument is a bit misplaced, in my opinion.”
Hanshaw said he does get frustrated over lapses in communication among government leaders. He said three personal profiles show a “divergence of philosophy.”
“I’m a practicing attorney by trade, [Senate] President Blair is a contractor by trade, a master plumber, and electrician, and Gov. Justice is a businessman by trade. So your approach to government service is formed in significant part by how you’ve shaped your life and those other roles,” Hanshaw said. “The practice of law is a business of communication, it is about communicating your ideas or your clients position. So that’s always come pretty easy to me. Others who are in a position of having unilateral decision making authority in their business and are able to make things happen just by decreeing them, they approach government service differently.”
Hanshaw said the only job that the legislature has is to be a civil and deliberative body.