Since the legislative session began on Feb. 10, more than 700 bills have been introduced over the two chambers of the legislature. They range on a variety of topics, such as selling alcohol earlier on Sundays to eliminating the requirement that schools be closed on election days, as well as many topics in between.
Of course, only a handful of these pieces of legislation become law each year, but their presence alone is enough to warrant careful discussion on how they would impact everyday West Virginians.
As Gov. Jim Justice outlined in his State of the State Address earlier this month, the abolishment of the personal income tax is a big priority for him and the state Republican Party, which currently holds a supermajority among the state legislature. The state’s estimated income tax revenue for the 2021 fiscal year is expected to be more than $2 billion, according to the West Virginia Center On Budget & Policy, and its abolishment would result in countless cuts within the state’s budget.
West Virginia University is a major beneficiary of state funding, whether directly or indirectly, and as lawmakers dip their hands into campus carry, the soda tax and more, campus may soon look very different from how it does now.
Another potential change lies in the elimination of the PROMISE Scholarship, a move that would result in an estimated savings of $47 million. While no bill has been introduced within the legislature, such a move has been discussed among lawmakers.
Many of our staffers hail from across the Mountain State, and many have expressed the inability to further their education without it. As thousands of WVU students are state natives, there are a vast number of students that reap the benefits of the program.
Some current legislation, as well as how it could be potentially destructive to the University, campus and the student body, is downright troublesome. It seems like, given what options are on the table, West Virginia University is in a position to get shafted. And when WVU gets shafted, students get shafted too.
Our editorial board met with WVU President E. Gordon Gee on Friday, and he reiterated his dedication to advocating for what is best for higher education and the University, saying that WVU and higher education across the state need to be invested in.
While Gee alluded to a large base of financial contributors being a backup plan in case student aid and WVU funds are slashed, the unknown is still concerning.
I’m not going to come out in favor of specific legislation and against others as that would be irresponsible given my role, but I am writing to strongly urge WVU to remember that, while administrators are the ones making decisions, it is the students that allow this University to operate.
WVU is a force far and wide across the state, whether through the gold and blue worn on fall Saturdays, the people who cash paychecks from WVU and WVU Medicine or the impact the University has on the local economy.
It’s time to be a force in the statehouse too.