There are often double-edged swords in most situations.
When one of my political and personal favorites, former Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, became convinced that eliminating the sales tax on food would be a miracle for state consumers, he knew all the economic plusses but acknowledged none of the negatives.
One claim that proponents made I’ve mentioned here before: when the tax came off West Virginia food there was supposed to be new grocery stores sprouting up on the Mountain State side of state lines.
Back then, one could almost envision the Food City, Food Lion and Kroger trucks fighting to get into the state along with the 400,000 whose personal income tax would soon be abolished by current Governor Jim Justice.
That was a positive edge to the sword that has not materialized. In fact, with the pandemic and other factors, stores have closed here rather than opened in droves since the food tax was eliminated. If grocery shopping in Williamson, one has to cross the Kentucky state line to find multiple.supermarkers or a loaf of bread — or drive to Gilbert.
On the other edge of the proverbial sword, state leaders scrambled until the pandemic hit to find revenue to combat the loss of food sales taxes. Seemingly, Covid put Justice and crew on the road to economic success. One can only guess where state finances would lie if it weren’t for federal bailouts, public and private.
We do know, of course, that Justice is a financial genius in his personal life. Given the news that just keeps on coming in that regard, is it any wonder legislators trust the Governor totally with state finances?
I’m assuming if he or other members of the Justice family approached state lawmakers to assume personal.responsibility for state finances, they’d all just sign on the dotted line. If not, why would they not?
Suffice it to say, given his track record, most sane folks would not want Justice in charge of the household budget.
Shifting gears a bit, from all quarters we have heard for several years about the positive aspects of the state’s tax-free weekend.
On the surface, at least, all seems positive. Of course, somebody has to figure out how to replace that lost revenue for the state as well.
Coupled with eliminating the food tax, the tax-free weekend has resulted in increased fees for other state services. Although they’d like to, the state doesn’t have a money printing press.
Looking more carefully at the tax-free weekend, the wife of a former conservative Republican Delegate says there’s another major negative.
Cheryl Kump is the wife of ex-Eastern Panhandle legislator Larry Kump. She is also a former retail store supervisor.
Cheryl Kump says the tax-free weekend is “great news” but there is a definite down side.
“I do have to warn many. What many do not realize is the corporations purposely raise prices on ALL tax free items that qualify,” she wrote in an email. “So please pay close attention to prices and just so you know, if you wait until tax free weekend is over you will then see those same items drop drastically in price.”
She continues, “Therefore it’s worth waiting, Including paying a couple dollars in taxes. I can’t speak for small businesses but I can say 100 percent that big box stores DO raise prices during Tax Free weekends. And sadly, customers will never pay any attention to what the prices were before tax free. You will find some items worth getting but be mindful and pay attention!
“Btw. It is not against the law for big box stores to raise prices!”
I have little experience buying during a tax-free weekend so I cannot personally testify as to the accuracy of Cheryl Kump’s claims. But I trust the Kumps enough to believe she’s telling the truth.
Let’s hear from other readers about your experiences with price gouging during tax-free weekends. And keep your eyes open for more of it in the future.
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Although the state election of judges recently changed to non-partisan, I’ve pointed out that’s a foreign concept in West Virginia elections. Here, elections ARE partisan.
If one attends a Reagan Day Dinner, the room will be filled with conservative Republican judges and candidates. Likewise, a Kennedy-Roosevelt event attracts liberal Democrat judges and candidates.
There’s nothing anyone can do to change that. Those dynamics exist no matter how we print the ballots.
But many use the judicial support and litmus tests to further advance the theory that Justice is no conservative Republican.
One must go only back to last year’s Supreme Court races to see why the doubts are in play.
While Justice obviously supported and helped re-elect Justice Tim Armstead, he did not do likewise for the other two conservative Republicans, Assistant Putnam County Prosecutor Kris Raynes and Jackson Circuit Judge Lora Dyer.
Instead, with the Governor’s clear support, his appointed liberal Democrat Justice John Hutchison was a winner. Less apparent was his support for the other liberal, Democrat Bill Wooton but it’s clear Justice didn’t support his opponent, Raynes.
The Governor has looked less like a Donald Trump Republican and more like a Bill Clinton Democrat in most of his legislative and judicial appointments and endorsements.
A recent one comes to mind where a liberal lion, Judge Warren McGraw, retired from the Wyoming County bench. When one looks up “liberal” in the dictionary, he or she finds a picture of Warren McGraw. Nobody takes issue with that.
But McGraw’s retirement gave Justice the opportunity to bring that circuit into current political reality. After all, Trump carried the state with nearly 70% — TWICE!
But Justice ignored the chance. Like Raynes and Dyer, Justice skipped the well-qualified conservative Republican female and picked the flaming liberal Democrat Prosecutor Michael M. Cochrane to replace McGraw. Cochrane has served as county prosecutor since 2013.
So much for the true Republican who was left standing alone by the Democrat party when he switched to Republican, as Justice described himself. He surely seems to miss those Democrats who left him.
Or maybe, given the Raynes, Dyer and now Lindsey Ashley experience, the Governor just prefers liberal Democrat male jurists to conservative Republican females.
In the instant case, Ashley’s credentials were undeniable. Just like with Raynes and Dyer a year earlier. All those three appear to have lacked were Democrat registrations.
Ask folks in Jackson what a refreshing, brilliant judge Dyer is. Universally, they rave about her fairness and honesty. Ask those in Putnam and the response about Raynes is the same: she’s a down-the-middle prosecutor.
Ashley is a Wyoming County native. She’s known as a real go-getter. She is a compassionate as well as passionate attorney practicing in Raleigh and her home county. She fits the mold of who a conservative Republican governor would appoint. Cochrane does not.
But Rayne is not a liberal. She’s not a Democrat. And she’s not a man. Three strikes and you’re out with this Governor apparently.
And yes, the Judicial Vacancy Advisory Commission included Ashley’s name as one of its recommendations to Justice. All this conservative Republican governor had to do was appoint her. Given his track record, he couldn’t do it.
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Hopefully, conservative voters will remember Justice’s appointment track record if he decides to run for something when his term expires in 2024.
I had long thought he’d never run again but with handing out “prizes” all across the state to those getting Covid vaccinations, I’m no longer so sure.
Traveling from north to south and east to west to give out millions in dollars and prizes without an ulterior motive? With Justice, I doubt it.
If Justice could be charged with vote-buying for his giveaway scheme, could BabyDog be charged as an accessory? Before, during and after the fact perhaps?
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A friend in the know tells me the exit plan for Justice Chief of Staff Brian Abraham is to be named Adjutant General near the end of the current term.
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Meanwhile, the unequaled administration of Dr. Mark Harris continues with the state Republican party. To call Harris’ final meeting as Raleigh County GOP Chair chaotic would be kind.
If Harris’ performance as Raleigh Chair is what inspired those who elected him state Chair, I have a trio named Larry, Moe and Curly Joe you might really want to put in charge.
Harris broke and/or allowed so many parliamentary rules to be broken at Thursday’s Raleigh meeting, it was impossible to keep track.
We pointed out, in our story about the meeting, that Harris resigned as chair, then immediately nominated State Senator Rollan Roberts to succeed him. We wondered how a person who just resigned had standing to nominate anyone. But it was a Harris meeting.
That query brought a written comment from the person who seconded Roberts’ nomination saying the nomination was “correct parliamentary procedure” because the motion was seconded.
What? If a motion is illegal, all it needs to make it legal is a second? Find that in your Funk and Wagnall’s — or Roberts’ Rules of Order for that matter.
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Personally I would not want to have to advise the legislative candidate running as a Republican in 2022 with Harris as state chair.
If I’m advising the opponent, the first thing I do is demand that the Republican denounce Harris’ service as chief of staff at the Beckley Veterans Administration Medical Center.
I’d point out the more than 70 veterans sexually abused by a doctor Harris helped hire and ask if the GOP candidate repudiated that or ignored it.
Not even a Republican candidate unfamiliar with the story, once shown newspaper clippings and other documents, can sidestep Harris’ involvement in the fiasco. He or she can either come down on the side of veterans or Harris and his employee. Easy enough.
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Senator Roberts who, by the way, was already in re-nomination trouble for 2022, no doubt added to it by becoming Raleigh County chair.
I offered my 50-year advice in an earlier column that no sensible legislator would want involvement in the local executive committee. All one can do is make enemies; not friends.
One would have thought that Roberts might see that point just in the one meeting last week. By coming down on Harris’ side, Roberts alienated others, including Republican legislative colleagues. That should hardly be his goal if he wants to be re-elected.
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Roberts will be interesting to see on.the campaign stump next year. Earlier I mentioned his penchant for referring to himself in the third person. This is especially true when he’s heaping praise on himself in his “newsletter” or at Thursday’s county committee meeting.
Either way, he doesn’t spare the words of praise for himself. He introduced himself at the Raleigh Committee meeting as “Supermajority Caucus Chairman, and the Chairman of the Chairmen” noting that he served on over 30 committees in the Senate, and also was responsible as the liaison to the House of Delegates.
The fact that he is quite impressed by his self-importance is impressive.
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I note that some Trump supporters plan another excursion to the capitol building at noon on September 18.
Let’s hope everyone behaves themselves this time — regardless of sides.
And yes, they DO have a right to march to the capitol building in the name of honest elections.
That date is also about a month AFTER right wing zealots expect President Trump to be “reinstated.” That term is not a part of the constitution everyone reveres.
Ron Gregory is a regular political columnist and reporter for lootpress.com. Contact him at 304-533-5185; email@example.com; or PO Box 20297, Charleston, WV 25362.