The West Virginia Legislature passed a budget at the end of the regular session back in April. The Governor vetoed that budget but to this point he has not proposed an alternative budget which is his responsibility in this situation. The Governor did offer “revenue measures,” which in everyday language means tax increases. While many of the members of both political parties remain fixated on the different tax schemes, I am working with other like-minded representatives to make reasonable, and much needed, reductions to unnecessary state spending, which would make this budget, and future budgets, more manageable. Some examples of unnecessary spending of taxpayer’s money are: subsidies for greyhound breeding, subsidizing prize money at racetracks, purchase of slot machines in casinos, and a number of state agencies that perform duplicative functions. The House passed many of these savings measures, but some were vetoed by the Governor, and some failed in the Legislature before the end of the regular session.
The criticism that helps me is in the form of an opinion column submitted earlier this week. One part of that submission falsely claimed that I voted for $138 million in sales tax increases. I do not know what the origin of that claim could be. I am sure that it was just an honest mistake, or the result of misinformation which is an unfortunate part of politics.
The other claim does have a thread of truth about me offering amendments regarding tax increases, but it does not tell the entire story. I did offer those amendments and here is why. House Bill 2816 had been introduced at the request of Governor Justice. The House and the Senate were working on details of the budget while the Governor, and many legislators, continuously complained that his tax measures were not presented for a floor vote. Knowing that even members of his own political party did not truly support the Governor’s job killing taxes, I amended his proposals, word for word, into a revised version of the bill that was at the amendment stage. This allowed every member of the House of Delegates to vote yes or no on the Governor’s tax increases, and it forced everyone to move on to more reasonable proposals. To be very clear; I voted no on the Governor’s taxes along with every single member of the House present that day; zero yes and 97 no. The following day, a State Senator offered the same amendments and the result there was the same; not a single Senator voted for Governor Justice’s tax proposals.
For the record, those taxes were a sales tax rate increase, and a consumer activity tax, which is an additional tax on any commercial activity; both of those taxes would harm West Virginians, and our already struggling economy.
The amendments, the different versions of the bill, and the roll calls are available on the West Virginia Legislature’s website. Here is the link to that site: http://www.legis.state.wv.us/index.cfm. I purposely requested roll call votes, and to keep you informed, I submitted a column that explained that procedure in this newspaper, which was published on April 11, 2017, and online on Facebook on April 13th.
I ran for office and asked for your vote so that I could advance policies to improve circumstances for you and your family, as well as the State of West Virginia. I am not shy about initiating procedures to defeat harmful legislation, or to pass those which will be helpful. I understand that the nature of politics is that a number of people will always criticize my decisions, all I can do is to learn as much as I can about the issues and make the best decisions possible. Since first elected five years ago, I have consistently written articles such as this to explain the issues and my votes. I have held numerous community meetings and regularly attend community functions. I welcome your input, and appreciate all of your prayers for me and my colleagues.
It is an honor to serve you,
Delegate Jim Butler
Jim Butler represents the 14th district in the West Virginia House of Delegates. Reach him at [email protected] or at his Capitol Office, Room 222E, Building 1, State Capitol Complex, Charleston, WV 25305, or by calling (304) 340-3199.