An article from the Martinsburg Journal newspaper:
The multimillion dollar deficit that West Virginia faces will be a main topic in the upcoming legislative session, but the Eastern Panhandle could play a role in easing the state's shortfall, according to one delegate.
Delegate Larry Kump (R-Berkeley) said this will be a tight budget year with the state facing a nearly $40 million deficit, which could increase.
"There is going to be a crunch," Kump said. "There is going to be a need to find ways to live within our means more so this year than before. A lot of people are going to have expectations for new programs and new funding, and that's going to be hard to do."
Kump suggested that the legislature address ongoing local issues. Vehicle registration enforcement, personal property tax regulations and highway infrastructure are issues that plague the Eastern Panhandle and cost the state millions, Kump said.
"I get more feedback about out-of-state license tags than almost any other issue," Kump said. "It just rankles people. They don't think it's fair when people are taking advantage of the system like that."
Kump said he is looking at proposals to more easily identify people who live in West Virginia but do not register vehicles in state, which violates the law and is a problem in the Eastern Panhandle as well as the rest of the state.
"If you want to see how bad the problem is, just go up to any elementary school," Kump said. "Count the number of out-of-state tags of people dropping their kids off or picking them up. We're losing a lot of revenue that could go to different things because these people are not paying their fair share."
This turns into a problem of West Virginia personal taxes, which people are not paying on vehicles, Kump said.
"It is not only a bad way to collect taxes," Kump said. "It's also a tremendous annoyance, but there's a fairness issue involved, too. If people are going to move here from other jurisdictions, they should play by the same rules as everyone else."
Kump said the Eastern Panhandle is one of the few areas in West Virginia that is growing. The population in most of West Virginia is aging or leaving the state, Kump said.
"If it wasn't for the Eastern Panhandle and the Morgantown area, West Virginia would have a serious population deficit," Kump said.
Kump said although the Eastern Panhandle is one of the most prosperous places in the state, residents are struggling everywhere.
"Compared to the Eastern Panhandle, the rest of West Virginia is doing extremely poorly," Kump said. "Even the people in the Eastern Panhandle are struggling to get by."
In Berkeley and Jefferson counties, more than 50 percent of the adult workforce is employed out of state, Kump said.
"This is one of the reasons why the Eastern Panhandle is growing," Kump said. "People are working out of state and coming home to live in the Eastern Panhandle."
Kump said the increase in population has affected traffic and roadways, including Interstate 81. The state should do more to increase the efficiency of the West Virginia Division of Highways and improve the highway infrastructure, which requires funding that is not in the budget, he said. Kump said the DOH practices should undergo an independent audit and analysis rather than increasing taxes or fees.
"That is not an indictment of the current administration," Kump said. "The highway department has had the same process in place for many years through different administrations, but there are plenty of ways to make better use of what we have now."
This session, Kump seeks to overall decrease the government regulation on citizens and decrease taxes in the state, Kump said. The delegate said he hopes to work on bills to address statewide issues such as Social Security benefit tax exemption; requiring court warrants for DUI blood testing; assigning single-member district; over-the-counter drug regulation; drug testing for welfare recipients; eminent domain rules; and tax regulations.
Footnote from Delegate Kump: In regard to over-the-counter medications, I oppose the proposal to require a doctor's prescription to purchase Sudafed.