West Virginia’s tax policy could also use an infusion of freedom. At its core, taxation is coercive — if you don’t pay your taxes, you go to jail. In recognition of this reality, it is incumbent on our elected officials to spend taxpayers’ money responsibly, and to construct the least freedom-eroding tax policy possible. West Virginians must ask ourselves how much government we want and how much we are willing to pay for it?
Evidence abounds that West Virginia’s current spending and taxation paradigm is no longer competitive in a 21st century framework. Elected officials must continue to look for creative ways to spur economic activity and a complete overhaul of our current tax code will be an excellent place to start. From there, we will have to make some tough decisions about what is essential and appropriate for our government to do and what is better left to the private sector and civil society. West Virginia must do all it can to control government spending through maintaining only the highest priority services that a government should provide while ensuring fiscal transparency and accountability.
Regardless of what we choose, our tax policy should be built in line with the principles of simplicity, transparency, and neutrality (in the sense of not favoring any one group over another). A tax code that encourages economic growth and innovation, while maintaining the aforementioned principles, will be an excellent way to put West Virginia back on a healthy economic path. For more on this, please see our latest study on tax reform.
Also, please see Keith Pauley’s op-ed on effective tax reform for West Virginia.