An Open Letter to West Virginia Legislators and Governor Tomblin from Aaron Stone, House of Delegates Candidate from the 24th District:
Logan, W.Va. — The current special legislative session to finalize a balanced budget for Fiscal Year 2017 has been, to date, a half-million dollar peacock show with candidates strutting about displaying colors of partisan platform politics. Inept legislators and stubborn governor have accomplished nothing in this special session. West Virginia’s representation in Charleston has not passed a budget, despite a nearly 300 million dollar shortfall and June 30th deadline looming. Legislators knew a budget was not approved before leaving the capitol to hit the campaign trail in time for the May Primary. This entire special session is evidence of government waste.
During the regular session, raw milk and photographing a corpse had the headlines, yet no balanced budget could be approved. Candidates seeking reelection want to wedge issues of great public approval in a desperate attempt to curry favor with the voting public or risk finding a real job in November. Incumbents want to distract the public with issues like the current bathroom debate and capital punishment. Legislating bathroom breaks are not money makers. While the death penalty may exercise some form of vengeance toward murderers of a campaign contributor; it is, in fact, an enormous expense. A vow to introduce such legislation before even securing reelection appears as mere overcompensation and contemptible overconfidence. Neither of which are characteristics of leadership.
Leadership is the ability to make decisions that are not popular. Governor Tomblin has demonstrated his ability to make unpopular decisions by endorsing Mrs. Clinton for President. That endorsement has been delivered to the public before a balanced budget. Playing party politics for national recognition before ensuring the continuation of your state’s government is irresponsible. Mr. Governor, you must be willing to allow more than a few million dollars from the “rainy day fund.”
Smoking and tobacco use has been the subject of laws and ordinances banishing it from public venues and advertisements for years. West Virginia currently has one of the lowest tobacco taxes in the nation. Unimaginative lawmakers have suggested raising this tax. A compromise of a 55 or 65 cent increase for tobacco products is not outlandish. Incentives and coupons distributed by tobacco companies, already used by smokers, could easily offset some of this burden to the customer. Although not ideal, this is a valid revenue source. Passing the new “brunch bill” created a revenue opportunity. By not slightly increasing the alcohol tax and capitalizing on increased sales, legislators are undervaluing their recent good actions. These new taxations, along with a portion of the “rainy day fund,” and excess money from dormant government accounts could avoid a shutdown this summer.
Mr. Governor and all Legislators, I implore you to put aside party politics and the election in November. Finish the budget. End the posturing for votes and empathy. Ideas put forth in this letter are not necessarily desired, but looming government shutdown is cause for putting away ideals and getting the job done – regardless of platform stance.
Forget all the yesterdays in favor of a single tomorrow.