Tomblin’s vetoes reflect most welcome caution
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin vetoed two bills that passed both the House and the Senate without a single no vote. In so doing, Tomblin probably spared taxpayers untold millions of dollars.
The first bill would have given a special state income tax break to 90 retired Division of Natural
Resources conservation officers by including them in a law that gives a tax break to retired law enforcement officers.
The bill passed the House and the Senate by unanimous votes.
The state Tax Department estimated the measure would reduce state revenues by $160,000 a year, which seems like a negligible amount in a $4 billion-plus annual budget.
But this isn't Tomblin's first rodeo. He knows that nothing is as simple as it appears when it comes to state personnel rules, particularly regarding pensions.
The Public Employees Retirement System covers these officers.
"I have serious concerns about providing disparate tax treatment to a very narrow class of retirees within PERS," Tomblin said in his veto message.
"Moreover, the bill creates a risk that the class will be expanded through litigation to include other retirees within PERS seeking the same treatment."
The governor also vetoed a bill that would have allowed the Courthouse Facilities Improvement Authority to issue bonds to pay for renovating and modernizing the state's 55 courthouses, some of which date to the 19th century.
The authority gets $2 million a year from courthouse fees. The governor did not want to commit the entirety of that money to paying back the money borrowed through those bonds.
"I believe that the possible long-term funding issues facing the Authority significantly outweigh the positive attributes of the bill," he said in his veto message.
As chairman of the state Senate Finance Committee and later as Senate president, Tomblin saw firsthand the price paid when the Legislature fails to look at the big picture and weigh the long-term cost of legislation.
Bravo to Tomblin for vetoing these two shortsighted measures. The electorate should ask delegates and state senators why they failed to do the math.