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WV Bid to Abolish Income Tax Called “Devastating” to Children

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The child-welfare system in West Virginia would face more than $23 million in budget cuts if West Virginia lawmakers get rid of the state's personal income tax. (Adobe stock)
The child-welfare system in West Virginia would face more than $23 million in budget cuts if West Virginia lawmakers get rid of the state's personal income tax. (Adobe stock)
 By Diane Bernard, Public News Service - WV - Producer, Contact
February 9, 2021

CHARLESTON, WV - Some of West Virginia's lawmakers are proposing abolishing the state's personal income tax during this year's legislative session, and social-services advocates say the move would be devastating for children and families.

Jim McKay, state coordinator for Prevent Child Abuse West Virginia, said the lost income would total more than $2 billion, forcing major cuts to state agencies, including the Bureau for Children and Families.

The state's child protective services division is still struggling to catch up from budget cuts during the Great Recession, he added.

He pointed out Mingo County currently has only one CPS worker for the entire area, who handles cases for more than 70 children.

"That's just heartbreaking," McKay remarked. "We know there are vacancies across the state in child protection services. And if there's budget cuts of the manner of the nature of those being proposed, many of those positions will remain unfilled with devastating consequences."

Lawmakers contended eliminating personal income tax would attract more people to live and work in West Virginia.

The state's population has dropped by about 61,000 between 2010 and 2019, according to the U.S. Census.

Estimates show without state income tax, West Virginia's child-welfare system, including Child Protective Services, and its foster-care system would each face a 20% cut.

McKay noted federal data shows West Virginia has curtailed child abuse, and reducing funding would be a major step backward.

"If these cuts are enacted to the level that they've been discussed, then we're going to lose that progress and return to increasing rates of child abuse and neglect instead of decreasing that we've accomplished in the last 24 months," McKay argued.

Ending personal income tax would benefit West Virginia's wealthiest residents without helping low- to middle-income families, according to data from the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy.

Kansas reduced its income tax in 2012 but repealed it in 2017 after revenues plunged.

The 2021 legislative session begins Wednesday.

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