From the Hagerstown, Maryland "Herlad-Mail" newspaper:
by Matthew Umstead
MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — A Republican state lawmaker from Berkeley County has introduced legislation to cut his own salary by $2,000 and begin to eliminate the pension benefit for new legislators, starting in 2016.
“Times are hard ... people are struggling,” said. Del. Larry D. Kump of his proposal to reduce legislators’ annual salary from $20,000 to $18,000.
Although not “a princely sum,” the pay cut would convey to the public that lawmakers recognize the struggles of residents and are going to make a similar sacrifice, Kump said.
House Bill 4119, if passed, would not reduce the reimbursements that lawmakers receive for meals, travel and lodging for the regular 60-day session, which continues through March 8.
Kump, R-Berkeley/Morgan, said eliminating the pension benefit as proposed in House Bill 4117 could only be done for future legislators, not for current lawmakers who were automatically included in the pension plan. “It encourages people to stay for longer than they should,” said Kump, who is serving his second, two-year term and filed for re-election last week. “They shouldn’t look at (serving in the legislature) as a career.”
Joining Kump in support of both bills are Berkeley County Republican Dels. Larry W. Faircloth and Mike Folk.
Faircloth said Wednesday he supports the salary reduction given that the state is in “economic duress,” with more than 50,000 people out of work and thousands more struggling to pay their bills.
Faircloth said a pay raise proposal for county elected officials was pushed the hardest during recent interim meetings, and state lawmakers need to set the example that now is the time for belt-tightening.
As for the pension benefit legislation, Faircloth said he simply doesn’t believe any elected official should be privileged or entitled to a pension for essentially providing a community service in an at-will position.
“Why should we receive a pension check for volunteering to help our state?” Faircloth asked.
No other delegates joined in support of Kump’s pension bill, and only one other lawmaker, Del. Roy Cooper, R-Summers, signed on as sponsor of the salary bill, according to the Legislature’s website.
Kump said the salary reduction bill is something he has considered since he was elected in 2010.
Although the bill could be amended and used as a vehicle for a salary increase, Kump said it is far less likely that lawmakers who might want to increase their salary will propose such a change in an election year.
Kump said the pension bill wouldn’t be an issue if there were limits in place on how many terms in office lawmakers can serve, which is something he also supports.
Home-school tax credit
Among other bills, Folk and Faircloth also signed on as sponsors of Kump’s bill to provide a $500 per child tax credit to parents or guardians whose children are home-schooled or attend a non-public school.
Dubbed the Educational Equality Act, House Bill 4136 would provide a tax credit that would be effective upon the completion of a school year.
Kump said the amount of the tax credit he proposed is a number he just “picked out of the air” and was meant to give families who devote a lot of resources to home-schooling their children a little bit of a break.
Kump said the credit is based on the principle of equity given that these families are also still paying property taxes that go toward the funding of their community’s public education system.
The cost of the tax credit hasn’t been figured, and Kump readily acknowledged that any bill with a fiscal note is going to have a tough time getting passed this year.
Joining the three Republican Berkeley County lawmakers in sponsoring the bill are Dels. Cindy Frich, R-Monongalia, and Gary G. Howell, R-Mineral.
Forced sewer hookup
While concerns over the public water service contamination crisis in the Charleston, W.Va.-area linger, Kump said he is pushing for legislation that would allow residential property owners to keep their septic systems and wells and not be forced to hook up to public sewer or water systems.
Kump said other large public service districts outside of West Virginia have allowed for such exemptions.
It would be the burden of the utilities to prove that a homeowners’ well or septic system was unsafe, and thus required to hook up to a public sewer system, if House Bill 4007 were adopted, Kump said.
“People who would have had a well (here in the Charleston area) would not have been affected by the water crisis,” said Kump.
He also cited the financial struggle that a Falling Waters, W.Va., couple has faced since being forced to pay for the cost of hooking up to the public utility system by taking out a loan on their property.
“My goal (here in the Legislature) is to give people a little bit of choice and not have things rammed down their throats by the government,” Kump said.
Faircloth, Folk and Dels. Eric Householder, R-Berkeley, Ray Canterbury, R-Greenbrier and William R. Romine, R-Tyler, signed on as sponsors of the bill, according to the Legislature’s website.