Final Days to Cast Vote for 2016 Our Children Our Future Platform (Budget Beat – September 25, 2015)

Cast Your Vote for the 2016 Our Children Our Future Policy Platform – Deadline Wednesday!

Time is running out to vote for the top issues that will become next year’s platform to help end child poverty in West Virginia.

Take a minute and vote for your top five choices today! Help us put a West Virginia Earned Income Tax Credit and Fair Taxes That Protects Roads, Children and Seniors on the platform!

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A Win-Win Marcellus Tax Incentive

West Virginia is in the midst of a natural gas drilling boom that has not brought gains in employment along with it. Our report out this week recommends a new tax incentive that, instead of providing tax breaks that largely benefit out-of-state corporations, would put money directly into the state’s budget while giving an incentive to natural gas consumers and producers who create West Virginia manufacturing jobs.

Here’s more in this week’s Charleston Gazette-Mail.

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Is Tax Reform a Done Deal This Session?

Meetings of the Joint Select Committee on Tax Reform continue on Monday and throughout the fall. What recommendations will the Committee present to the legislature? Based on comments this week from Senate President Bill Cole in the Beckley Register-Herald, this may not be the year for tax reform.

We are following this process closely and encourage you to attend the Committee’s public hearing on October 20 to have your voice heard on this important process that affects all of us in West Virginia.


Exciting Job Opportunities!

The Nature Conservancy is looking for qualified candidates to fill the position of Energy Policy Coordinator. This is a half-time position based in Charleston. Candidates are encouraged to apply even if they are not able to move to Charleston. Apply online at online at nature.org/careers.

Our partners at West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families are looking for an Administrative Director to join their dynamic team. Learn more about this exciting opportunity here.

Calling for Tax “Reform” for Working West Virginia Families (Budget Beat – September 18, 2015)

How Tax Reform Should Include Our Working Families

This week at the conclusion of the standing-room-only Our Children Our Future Policy Summit, a diverse coalition of organizations that cares about kids, families, seniors and working people, presented basic principles of fair taxation.

Surrounded by student advocates and allies, leaders from labor, faith-based, and community action groups all spoke to the need to invest in our schools, infrastructure and work force, instead of cutting taxes more for the wealthy.

2015 Tax Fairness Brief cover

The coalition asked legislators to consider the following:

  1. Any new tax proposal should not jeopardize schools, roads, colleges, kids, or seniors. This includes protecting services for vulnerable West Virginians.
  2. Any new tax proposal should include accountability measures for tax breaks or credits so we know they are working.
  3. Any new tax proposal should not increase taxes on low- and middle-income families; in West Virginia we already have an upside-down tax structure where working families are forced to pay more than their fair share.
  4. Any new tax proposal should consider new and alternative sources of revenue to pay for urgent needs such as infrastructure, education and human services.
  5. Any new tax proposal should avoid changes to revenue generation that would short circuit the democratic process and weaken the state’s ability to meet future needs.

Read all about it in the Beckley Register-Herald, the Charleston Gazette-Mail, the State Journal and the Dominion Post. Listen to coverage by West Virginia Public Broadcasting.

It’s likely that the Joint Select Committee on Tax Reform will recommend some sort of tax cut for the wealthy, perhaps by cutting personal income tax rates for those with high incomes. Reflecting back at the impact of seven years of business tax cuts, while some state leaders supported them at the time, they are now saying that the cuts went too far and did not bring about their promised gains in job creation. The WVCBP’s predictions came true, despite having our opinion called unrealistic by the WV Chamber of Commerce back in 2008. Here’s more in the Charleston Gazette-Mail.

Census Numbers Bring Good and Bad News

It was a week of mixed data from U.S. Census with the good news that West Virginia has drastically reduced its number of people who lack health insurance, and the bad news that its rate of poverty stayed stubbornly high in 2014.

Over 90% of West Virginians now have health insurance. The almost 100,000 of us gaining access to health insurance in 2014 was the third biggest decline in uninsured people in the country.

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Much work needs to be done to tackle the state’s high poverty rate and low median income (see below for how to vote to help make this happen). One in four children in West Virginia lived in poverty in 2014 and the state’s overall poverty rate of 18.3% was essentially remained unchanged since 2013.

2015 poverty data chart
Read much more in today’s blog post from Sean and in the Charleston Gazette-Mail.

Cast Your Vote for the 2016 Our Children Our Future Policy Platform!

Now that the 2015 Our Children Our Summit has wrapped up, it’s time to vote to select the top issues that will become next year’s platform to help end child poverty in West Virginia.

Take a minute and vote for your top five choices today! Help us put a West Virginia Earned Income Tax Credit and Fair Taxes That Protects Roads, Children and Seniors on the platform!
Our Children Our Future with Children Silhouette

Bridge the Divides: Transform Politics

If you are in the Wheeling area on Monday, you have two chances to join Nuns on the Bus as they call for a new political reality. The group will be collecting stories to take to Congress as part of their call for change.

Nuns on the bus 9.21.15

Census Data Shows Thousands Gaining Health Insurance, But Many Still in Poverty

The Census Bureau released the 2014 American Community Survey (ACS) this week, which contains data on poverty, income, and health insurance coverage for all 50 states. For West Virginia, the data release had both some really good and some not-so-good news.

First the good news. The 2014 ACS release was to first to have data on health insurance coverage with the Affordable Care Act in full effect, including the expansion of Medicaid. And, as one of the states that opted to expand Medicaid, West Virginia saw a major decline in its uninsured population. The number of West Virginians without health insurance coverage fell by nearly 100,000, from 14% of the population, to just 8.6%, the third biggest decline in the country. The decline in the number of uninsured was more than 10 times bigger than any previous year’s change. Now over 91% of West Virginia’s population has health insurance.

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The Affordable Care Act is largely responsible for the decline in West Virginia’s uninsured population. As part of the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid was expanded to people making up to just $32,500 per year for a family of four (138 percent of the federal poverty rate). The Supreme Court, however, left it up to the states to decide whether to extend their benefits to these families and accept the federal funding to do so. In May of 2013, Governor Tomblin decided to expand West Virginia’s Medicaid program, and as of June 2015, more than 164,000 newly eligible West Virginians are receiving health insurance through expansion.

Other provisions of health care reform are also helping reduce the number of West Virginians without health insurance. 33,000 West Virginians have enrolled in health care plans through the state’s new health insurance marketplace, which allows people to easily compare prices and benefits of health care plans. Many of these people receive federal subsidies to help them pay their premiums and reduce their out-of-pocket health costs.

The expansion of health insurance largely benefits low-income working families. Children under 18 and West Virginians participating in the labor force made up more than 2/3rds of the decline in the uninsured population.

It wasn’t all good news for West Virginia from the Census Bureau, however. While the data release from the ACS showed significant progress in insurance coverage, the state is not seeing any progress in reducing poverty. The state’s poverty rate in 2014 was 18.3%, essentially unchanged from 2013 and still above its pre-recession levels. One in four children in West Virginia lives in poverty. In addition, the state’s median household income hasn’t budged since the recession, and at $41,059, is the 2nd lowest among the 50 states.

But just like policies such as the Affordable Care Act made a difference in the state’s uninsured rate, theyy can make a difference when it comes to poverty. Enacting a pro-work state earned income tax credit would open the doors of opportunity for people at low-wage jobs by letting them keep more of what they earn to help pay for things that allow them to keep working, such as child care and transportation. This will help build a more secure future for these families – including their kids – while boosting local economies across the state. In contrast, proposals to cut taxes for the wealthy and businesses would close the doors of opportunity, taking away resources from services families rely on every day without boosting the economy or creating jobs.

A state earned income tax credit, set at 15% of the federal credit, would supplement the existing federal earned income tax credit and benefit 158,000 working West Virginia families. It would provide an average credit of $332 a year to those families and put $52 million back into local economies in West Virginia. Twenty-six other states and the District of Columbia already have a state earned income tax credit.

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Calling for Tax Reform That Protects Children and Seniors (Budget Beat – September 11, 2015)

Join Us Right After the OCOF Policy Summit

Right after the wrap-up of the Our Children Our Future Policy Summit, join us in the Governor’s Conference Room (inside the Secretary of State’s office) on September 15 at 12:30 PM for the release of the report, “Tax Reform That Protects Roads, Children and Seniors.”

A diverse coalition of organizations that cares about kids, families, seniors and working people, community organizations and local governments will come together to support basic principles of fair taxation for legislators to consider as they deliberate changes to the tax code.

Our Children Our Future with Children SilhouetteExtending Important Tax Credits

The federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC) help thousands of working West Virginia families make ends meet. But unless Congress acts, 131,000 children in 81,000 families in West Virginia could lose an important piece of their family budgets when critical provisions of the EITC and CTC expire.

To put the numbers in perspective, a single mother with two children in Huntington who works full time at $8.75/hour, earning just $17,500/year, would lose $1,565 of her $2,000 CTC.

Read more in this oped written by Jennifer Thacker with the West Virginia Alliance for Sustainable Families and Ed Davis, with the United Way of the River Cities.

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The Unworthy Poor

The Our Children Our Future Policy Summit is an annual gathering of those working to end child poverty in West Virginia. For further inspiration, read this brief but powerful essay, “Our Perceptions About the Unworthy Poor Haven’t Changed.”

It concludes with this: “Only when we change a system that traps so many Americans in a struggle to meet their basic needs will we create an economy defined by opportunity and the chance for anyone to thrive.”


Relief for Coal Communities

There was more national attention on the decline of the region’s coal industry this week. This Bloomberg article touches upon how Appalachian communities are passing resolutions of support for President Obama’s Power Plus Plan. It also quotes WVCBP Executive Director Ted Boettner on how funding the West Virginia Future Fund will provide resources for communities once the jobs are gone.

For perspective on why West Virginia should embrace the Power Plus Plan, check out this oped by former State Senator Dan Foster in this week’s Charleston Gazette-Mail.

Remembering 9/11

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It’s Not Too Late to Register for the OCOF Policy Summit – Join Us! (Budget Beat – September 4, 2015)

Last Week to Register for Our Children Our Future Policy Summit!

It’s almost here! It’s almost time for the Our Children Our Future Policy Summit. Have you registered yet?

We are partial but think you’ll especially want to attend the panel discussion on Participatory Budgeting, Tax Reform and the state Earned Income Tax Credit featuring our very own Ted Boettner and Sean O’Leary!

Here’s the agenda and registration info.

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Tax Reform for ALL West Virginians

On September 15, Day Two of the Policy Summit, stick around for the release of our Tax Fairness Statement of Principles. Dozens of organizations have signed on to let the Joint Committee on Tax Reform, and the rest of the legislature know, that when it comes to tax reform, they need to remember all West Virginia families, including those living in poverty.

Any push for tax reform in West Virginia needs to remember working families. We will ask legislators to create a state Earned Income Tax Credit so that West Virginia can join the 25 other states and the District of Columbia who reward hard-working families who need a hand up to pay for their basic needs.

Come by the Governor’s Conference Room (inside the Secretary of State’s office) at 12:30PM on Tuesday, September 15 and help us deliver this important message.

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Seth DiStefano Joins Our Team!

This week Seth DiStefano came on board as our State EITC Campaign Coordinator. Seth is a native West Virginian and has worked with progressive coalitions in the state before as Field Organizer for the ACLU WV. His goal is to make West Virginia the 26th state to have its own EITC, providing a tax credit to low-income working families, and helping workers stay on the job.

Welcome, Seth!

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WVCBP In the News

National (and international) focus on West Virginia’s economy continued this week with the Wall Street Journal, Nasdaq and the Australian reporting on the ripple effect to other businesses as the state’s coal industry continues to slow, citing WVCBP data.

As stock markets around the globe continue their roller coaster ride, the ups and downs are unlikely to be felt in West Virginia. Read what Ted had to say in this week’s Clarksburg Exponent-Telegram.

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