Manchin Encourages Gradual Tax Changes for Fiscal Future

WHEELING — As the state of West Virginia celebrates its 154th birthday on Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin — a former governor and state lawmaker — said cooperation and moderation should be the goal of West Virginia leaders seeking to bring West Virginia to a better financial status.

This year, state legislators and Gov. Jim Justice grappled over creating a state budget that would plug budget deficits while creating growth.

Manchin, D-W.Va., said during the time he was governor beginning in 2005, until he left for the Senate in late 2010, “We had the state in great shape financially.”

He said he realized West Virginia was going to have to compete with neighboring states, but at the same time saw major financial changes couldn’t take place at one time without causing harm to the community.

The key was to decrease such items as corporate tax rates and the food tax on a gradual basis, according to Manchin.

“I didn’t create the market — I just wanted to compete in the market,” Manchin said. “We couldn’t compete with the corporate tax rates we had. We didn’t cut them out. We went down to a more competitive rate at 6.5 percent decreasing one percentage point a year.”

“We didn’t wipe out the food tax. We went down to 3 percent so we could compete on the borders. “

And the legislative members at the time “didn’t beat each other up” on the House and Senate floor, he said.

“We didn’t attack any political party because they didn’t think exactly like we did,” he said. “We tried to give them a reason, and they could agree to disagree for political posture. We would tell them if you’ve got a better idea, bring it to us.

“I’ve always said if you can’t change your mind, you can’t change anything. I think it was a different atmosphere,” Manchin continued. “Today we have a toxic atmosphere that starts in Washington and goes to the states. It’s awful, and somebody has to stop it.”

Manchin said as West Virginia looks toward its 155th year and beyond, the state needs to embrace its oil and gas resources.

He and U.S. Sen. Shelly Moore Capito, R-W.Va., are sponsoring legislation to build an ethane storage and distribution hub in central Appalachia. It is their belief such a facility will be instrumental in bringing back industry to West Virginia, while also diversifying the economy.

“Our state has so much potential, and that’s why I’ve been working hard to promote policies that spur new investment and boost economic growth in our rural communities,” Capito said. “For example, I’ve championed efforts in Congress to increase access to broadband. The internet can provide West Virginians with opportunities that lead to job growth and higher wages, providing the momentum our state’s economy needs.”