GOV. Earl Ray Tomblin will deliver his fourth State of the State speech tonight, continuing the tradition of the chief executive providing guidance to the state Legislature.
The most important thing for the state in these challenging economic times, as it is for West Virginia families, is responsible budgeting. Fortunately for state citizens, Tomblin has a good record of being fiscally responsible, as governor since 2010, Senate president for nearly 17 years and Senate finance chairman before that.
His fiscal leadership, along with that of former House Speaker and current Department of Revenue Chief Bob Kiss, along with others, has brought levels of fiscal responsibility to the state that was sorely missing for many generations before them.
Still, legislators will have many interest groups pushing them to spend more money on this and that. We need a billion plus to maintain and improve our highway system, nearly $50 million to raise teacher salaries by $1,000, millions more for Medicaid, and on and on.
There are many deserving projects that could benefit from additional funding from the state, it's just that there isn't enough money to fund them all. Fortunately, the state constitution requires the state to balance its budget every year, preventing annual deficits.
Some say the state should increase taxes on business. In fact, they correctly state that part of the downturn in revenue is due to the state reducing its corporate income tax rate to 6.5 percent, down from 9 percent a few years ago, and reductions in the business franchise tax, which is gradually being phased out, as well as doing away with the regressive food sales tax.
But with the state traditionally being ranked low in many national business rankings, it needs to keep its business taxes low to increase job creation and job growth. There's good reason to believe that many companies haven't located within the state due to its past unfriendly tax structure and burdensome regulations, as well as a litigious culture.
Correcting those issues will help economic growth, bringing more tax paying businesses and more revenue into state coffers.