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As WV Considers Phaseout, Other States Look to Increase Income Taxes

Economic growth in Kansas has slowed since that state started to phase out its income tax. Observers say it's a cautionary tale for West Virginia lawmakers considering the same path. (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)
Economic growth in Kansas has slowed since that state started to phase out its income tax. Observers say it's a cautionary tale for West Virginia lawmakers considering the same path. (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)
February 27, 2017

CHARLESTON, W. Va. – West Virginia lawmakers are considering getting rid of the state income tax, even while other states seem to be moving in the opposite direction.

The governor and some legislative leaders say they want to replace the income tax with consumption taxes, such as sales taxes. But in Kansas, Gov. Sam Brownback has just barely managed to defeat a veto override - defending the income-tax phaseout he signed in 2012.

Heidi Holliday, executive director of the Kansas Center for Economic Growth, said income-tax opponents both in West Virginia and Kansas have argued that ending the tax would lead to faster growth. But Holliday said that has proven to be a false hope.

"There's a broad consensus that the 2012 tax plan is not working,” she said. "While we didn't quite have enough votes to override the governor's veto, we did have a bipartisan majority of legislators who voted to end this tax experiment."

Faced with a big budget shortfall, Alaska lawmakers are also debating whether to impose that state's first income tax.

West Virginia Senate President Mitch Carmichael argued that states without income taxes are growing faster on a per capita basis. But critics say that's not true - except in Texas, which is in the midst of an oil boom.

In Kansas, Brownback said the income tax cuts and sharp reductions in business taxes would be a shot of adrenaline to the heart of the Sunflower State's economy.

Holliday said the actual results have been starkly different.

"That was supposed to be a major job creator in the state and a major economic driver. And instead Kansas ranked 45th in the nation last year in job growth,” she said. "It had pretty much the exact opposite impact."

Brownback has argued that the tax cuts would more than pay for themselves through additional economic growth. But Kansas has a $900 million budget shortfall this year and next, and Holliday said projections are that the state will soon have one of the highest unemployment rates in the country.

More information on the effects of income tax cuts in Kansas is available here.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV