Taxing Challenge

President Barack Obama and liberals in Congress have made it clear they care more about jobs in government than those in the private sector. Here in West Virginia, we cannot afford to take that approach.

As a result of the “fiscal cliff” deal adopted by Congress this week, taxes will be going up for many small business owners. A more certain means of holding job creation down would have been difficult to devise. And the deal’s lack of any control on federal spending certainly will not encourage companies or entrepreneurs to expand.

When West Virginia legislators begin their regular annual session in just a few weeks, one of their challenges will be to keep the state’s budget balanced. Higher expenses for programs such as Medicaid will make that extraordinarily difficult.

As we have urged previously, however, higher state taxes should be viewed as out of the question. New information on unemployment reinforces that point.

State Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette commented this week that unemployment is West Virginia’s “biggest challenge” during the coming year.

In November, the most recent month for which information is available, about 14,000 fewer West Virginians had jobs than in the same period of 2011. Proportionate to population, that is the biggest drop in employment of any state in the country.

While end of the year state unemployment average, 7.3 percent, is not at catastrophic levels, it is bad. As Burdette noted, that statistic takes into account only men and women who are looking for jobs but cannot find them. Many Mountain State residents have simply given up searching for employment.

Some counties are in much worse shape than the state average indicates. The grimmest statistic comes from Clay County, where 14.1 percent of the workforce cannot find jobs. Several others in our area are above 8 percent.

As Burdette indicated, cracking the unemployment nut is a complicated process. But undoubtedly, higher taxes – on consumers and/or businesses – are not the way to go. In a state facing a variety of challenges, some of our own making, to job creation, tax hikes would add insult to the injury already inflicted this week in Washington.

State legislators should not consider such action under any circumstances.