End Government Waste
What WV Can’t Wait For
Our tax dollars must benefit tax payers, not tax dodgers and profiteers. No more lavish office furniture, no more fancy retreats paid for with disaster relief money, no more government waste cover ups, and no more bloated payouts to politically-connected Good Old Boys.
Whose Side We’re On
- People who want honest, transparent government
- Entrepreneurs Creating Real Economic Development
- Folks who are sick of the rigged system
- People who work hard and want better
- People who deserve basic, functioning infrastructure
- Small Town Main Streets
- Kids who want to stay here when they grow up
- Small business owners who give back to their communities
- Visionaries who create good jobs here in long term, sustainable industries
… and more. Click the links above to read stories from the trail.
What We’re Up Against
Let’s do a quick review of the past few years…
- Remember that time Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry spent $32,000 of taxpayer money on a couch?
- And how about when the Department of Health and Human Resources spent a million dollars in lease payments for office space that had been vacated years before?
- What about those insurance payments the state made for thousands of cars we didn’t even own?
- Or miles and miles of broadband fiber run to closed schools and unused buildings?
- And the $15 million wasted on oversized or unused routers–while Governor Tomblin used his office to withhold the reports of the waste from the public?
- Worst of all are the tens of thousands of RISE flood funds spent not on victims, but for a Commerce Department retreat at a resort with Woody Thrasher, while flood victims languished without relief.
- What about our neighbors right now facing a pandemic who still haven’t recovered from the 2016 flood, all while our government lines up contractors who are profiting off of our pain?
The wasteful government spending list could go on and on. We’ve just grazed the surface of the past few years, but this has occurred practically for time immemorial in our state.
And this reckless waste isn’t just a budget issue. It’s a moral issue.
We have the money to invest in making our lives better, right now–funds that could go toward alleviating the financial devastation of COVID-19, funds that could provide paid sick days and paid family/medical leave, funds that could make sure every West Virginian has access to clean water at home, funds that could go to support our first responders the front lines–but the Good Old Boys Club in Charleston instead spends our money in ways that benefit themselves and their donors at our expense.
A Pew Research report (p 41) found that West Virginia is among the worst states in terms of using cost/benefit analyses to determine sound policy. In other words, our state mostly doesn’t bother looking at whether or not something is worth the amount we’re spending for it–and those few times we do, our politicians use their power to cover up the ghastly revelations.
We’re betting you don’t need three guesses to understand why.
This reckless spending is especially problematic in a state that has a long and storied history of bearing huge, long term costs for industry profiteers.
The report pointed out that “examining the long-term costs and benefits of programs can conflict with the political process, which often focuses on short-term outcomes. Policymakers may overlook proven programs that do not provide an immediate return on investment…”
While the media has done a great job exposing some of the seedier examples of graft that West Virginians are on the hook for–see all those example above!–we can and WILL do better as a state.
- Require cost-benefit analyses of proposed legislation. These analyses must take into account who pays the costs for the legislation–including opportunity costs, long term health impacts, losses of property rights, clean-up costs, and boom-bust impacts. The analyses must also be clear about who is getting benefits. No longer can we allow working families’ taxes to be redistributed for economic ventures that primarily benefit the already-wealthy at the expense of our health, land and long term job stability. It’s not enough, for example, to suggest that the public will have a marginally lower utility bill if we do it at the cost of stealing or devaluing our properties, homes, or family farms.
- Ensure that tax breaks provided on claims of job creation are tied to the actual creation of jobs. “Jobs” must not be simply a magic word that lobbyists use to deflect facts about how much they’re profiting at our expense. If the jobs promised are not created, they will pay back our money with interest.
- Produce a detailed, easy-to-use, accounting of the budget, to be available to the general public. The governor will attend at least one public Town Hall in each county, each year, in order to take questions and feedback about the budget. (See our Government of the People plan.)
- Establish an independent State Inspector General’s office. The primary function would be to investigate spending waste and corruption across the board. The consolidation of offices of inspectors general into one entity, as many other states have done, will facilitate inter-agency communication, minimize redundancy, and prevent silo-ing of information, in addition to promoting and reinforcing statewide standards and expectations for accounting practices across governmental departments. It can also provide objective and thorough fiscal notes.
- Institute a Corporate Crime and Political Corruption Division in the State Police, in order to root out white collar crime in West Virginia. We cannot be surprised that political corruption (cronyism, nepotism, kickbacks, fraud) and corporate crime (wage theft, tax evasion, etc.) run rampant in West Virginia. There is no one minding the shop. We are proud to be the only campaign with a plan to police the corrupt politicians and corporate criminals who are robbing our state (see full Prosecute Corruption Plan here.).
- Hire “secret shoppers” who will interact with the agencies of state government “undercover” and report back on misconduct. (See our Government of the People plan.)
- Create a Spending Taxpayer Council on Government Waste. This council would include two members per county, made up of a combination of community leaders, taxpayer advocates, lawyers, accountants, and others with relevant experience and expertise. It would work closely with the centralized Office of the Inspector General to
- Help identify potential sources of waste, fraud, and corruption.
- Aid in communicating the proceedings and results of the audit to all of us–the residents of West Virginia–and would
- Play a key role in disseminating information throughout communities, facilitating regular feedback sessions and community engagement opportunities, and also serving to establish and maintain transparency throughout the audit process.
- Reform the use of PILOTs (Payment In Lieu of Taxes). Every year, out-of-state companies dodge millions in property taxes through a mechanism called PILOTs. In a PILOT agreement, a county government purchases a piece of land and leases it back to the company, so the company can avoid paying taxes. This practice is ripe for abuse. Notably, the unpopular and dangerous Rockwool insulation factory in Jefferson County was gifted a $150 million PILOT by the state. All future PILOTs must:
- Be approved by local School Boards, in addition to Economic Development Authorities;
- Require a cost-benefit analysis before approval *see criteria above
- Require transparency about every agreement, and the revenue it has generated or failed to generate
- Include an agreement about the long-term revenue to be created, and a clawback clause to hold companies accountable when they do not produce revenue.
- Include an automatic sunset period of no more than five years, after which point, the agreement must be renegotiated
How We Pay For It
Total: About $3 million.
Costs will include the following:
- Roughly $20,000/year in costs for communications/statewide dissemination to reinforce priority of transparency
- $1 million/year budget for resources and overhead
- $85,000/year (State Inspector General)
- $900,000/year ($60,000 each for 15 inspectors)
- $8,000/year for 110-member citizen task force (2 per county): $880,000/year
This policy will provide savings by eliminating waste and fraud. While we can’t estimate at this time how much we’ll find, just eliminating the reckless spending listing above would meet costs many times over.
Every one of our New Deal plans was written by West Virginians.
- Our volunteers asked 11,000 of their neighbors, “What would you do if you were Governor?”
- Our candidates attended 197 Town Halls, taking notes in community centers, church basements, union halls, and small businesses.
- Educators met after work to start sketching out their perfect school.
- Nurses traded ideas on the picket line.
- Our county and constituency captains ratified a first platform in the fall of 2019 and updated it in the spring of 2020 to reflect the current pandemic.
But the legacy of this New Deal dates back to John Brown and Mother Jones, to the United Mine Workers of America and the suffragettes, to the Poor People’s Movement and the CIO.
No one politician or slate of candidates can win this plan alone. We need you.
If you have an idea for how to make this plan stronger, or if you would like to lend a hand to win it, contact our candidate for Governor Stephen Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org.