Improving Tax Policy in W.Va.

The announcement Tuesday that Wheeling resident Robin Capehart has been hired as lead counsel to the state Senate’s Committee on Finance may be sending an important message.

It is that, despite setbacks on their campaign for tax reform in West Virginia, conservative legislators are willing to try again.

If so, good. Tax reform is a complex, controversial issue. Just consider events in Washington, D.C., if you doubt that.

There are so many competing interests and ideas that forging a consensus on taxes may seem like banging one’s head against a brick wall.

Democrats condemned the decision to hire Capehart, by Senate Finance Chairman Craig Blair, R-Berkeley. Their criticism focused on his time as president of West Liberty University. Capehart resigned from that job in March 2015, amid allegations he abused his power by using WLU resources to help promote a film he had produced.

Blair said he looked into complaints against Capehart, and “found not one to be substantiated.”

Regardless of that, Capehart clearly will be an asset to the state Senate. For some time, he was considered the state’s top expert on tax policy. He served as secretary of tax and revenue in Gov. Cecil Underwood’s administration. He also chaired the Governor’s Commission on Fair Taxation, which laid out a blueprint for reform.

Whether Capehart will urge lawmakers to take another look at the plan remains to be seen. Times have changed.

And whether conservatives in both the Senate and House of Delegates will decide to push again for tax reform is a question. Taking Capehart on board implies they will try again.

That can only be good for our state. Reformers may or may not come up with a tax package that works now and paves the way for a brighter future for West Virginians.

But one thing is certain: If no one tries to improve tax policy, it will never be accomplished.

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