The governor wants to switch from an income tax to a consumption tax. Since I am pretty sure this is, if not the dumbest thing a WV politician has suggested, it’s certainly close, I decided to take a look at the census data and see what that told me.
A tiny bit of background.
West Virginia is surrounded by five other states: PA, MD, VA, KY, OH. [A]
West Virginia has four Interstates running through it: I64, I68, I77, I79. For towns along those interstates, it should be no more than two hours to a bordering state. [B]
West Virginia has 14 counties that contain major food deserts [C]–cities are were more than 20 miles from “grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and healthy food providers.” The entire county of Gilmer is a food desert. Nine (9) of those counties with food deserts are NOT along the state border, and nine (9) of those counties also have a mean yearly income less than $50,000.
WV has seven (7) counties with a mean household income over $60,000. With the exception of Kanawha, all those are border counties, meaning residents can easily drive to another state to make purchases. There are 16 counties with a mean income over $55,000, [D] 12 of those counties are border counties. Of those remaining four, only Nicholas and Taylor counties do not have an Interstate running through them.
There are 18 counties with a population over 30,000. [E] 13 of those counties are border counties. Of the remaining five, only Logan county does not have an Interstate running through it.
With me so far?
When you step back and look at the big picture, you see that the wealthiest and most populated counties tend to be border counties, where people can easily drive to another state to shop.
Of those interior counties, nine (9) have areas that are food deserts, four (4) have unemployment rates over 5.5%, ten (10) of those counties have a mean income of less than $50,000, and eleven counties have populations of less than 20,000 people.
Those who will be contributing most to the taxes to keep the state afloat are predominantly going to be those who can least afford the extra burden, while the wealthy will be able to avoid paying the consumption tax by easily driving over the border to another state. [F]
This idea could only have been come up by someone either profoundly ignorant of the population of the state, or profoundly ignorant of human nature.
Either way, it is the poor who will get screwed.
[A] OH is somewhat problematic, since there the Ohio river is the border between WV and OH, and thus you can only cross at bridges, which are predominantly in the wealthier counties.
[B] There are other major roads that criss-cross the state, but most are good roads for only a portion. FREX, Most Rt 50 from Clarksburg to Parkersburg is a relatively flat and straight divide four lane divided highway. From Bridgeport East to the border, it’s two lanes, windy, and with several 7-9% grades. So I only counted Interstates with consider ease of access to other states.
[C] Food Deserts: Barbour, Fayette, Gilmer, Jackson, Kanawha, Lewis, Lincoln, Mason, Mingo, Monroe, Roane, Upshur, Webster, Wetzel
[D] Income over $55k: Berkeley, Brooke, Cabell, Harrison, Jackson, Jefferson, Kanawha, Marion, Marshall, Monongalia, Nicholas, Ohio, Pleasants, Putnam, Taylor, Wood
[E] Population over 30k: Berkeley, Cabell, Fayette, Greenbrier, Harrison, Jefferson, Kanawha, Logan, Marion, Marshall, Mercer, Monongalia, Ohio, Preston, Putnam, Raleigh, Wayne, Wood
[F] And I do mean driving. Public transportation is abysmal in much of the state, and in rural areas, you are trapped without a car; you cannot get a job, go to the doctor, get groceries, etc.