February 14, 2018

Talking points for WV teachers and public employees

When it comes to a decent income and benefits, you may hear a lot of “We can’t afford it.” The question is “We who?” Here are some talking points:

1. Since 2007, WV has cut state taxes by over $400 million per year. “We” could have done any number of things with that, including treating working people right;

2. Over $200 million of those cuts went to business through eliminating the business franchise tax and reducing the corporate net income tax. That was more than enough to pay for debt free two and four-year college for every student at state institutions.

3. Those business tax cuts were supposed to create jobs. They didn’t. We have fewer private sector jobs in WV now than we did 10 years ago.

4. Those business tax cuts were supposed to “pay for themselves.” They didn’t. They never have.
5. What works, on the other hand, is having an educated workforce and a decent quality of life to attract and keep people here.

6. You may hear that “We have to live within our means.” Here’s the deal: our “means” aren’t caused by fate. Unlike a teacher or public employee, the state legislature decides how much income it gets.

7. State legislators get to decide to reduce income (tax cuts) or increase income (things like increasing the severance tax, rolling back some unproductive corporate tax cuts, a modest sales tax on sugary drinks, etc. West Virginia could be a failed state or one that invests in its people.

8. Incredibly, the legislature is pondering yet more unproductive tax cuts, including the business machinery tax on certain industries (mostly based out of state) and massive giveaways to the gas industry.

9. The legislature is even moving to cut SNAP food assistance for low income people, which includes many public employees. Even worse things are rolling down from the federal level.

10. Teachers and public employees in recent weeks have made a lot of progress in pressuring politicians to do the right thing and in gaining public support. This is no time to slow down or stop. It’s pretty much now or never.

Last word goes to escaped slave and abolitionist Frederick Douglass: “Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have the exact measure of the injustice and wrong which will be imposed on them.”