Justice Should Use a Golf Strategy to Advance an Income Tax Cut

Governor Jim Justice remains committed to his tax bill.

He believes in, and has lobbied for, an initial 60 percent reduction in the state income tax, followed by its eventual elimination.  That would save taxpayers over $2 billion.

But to offset the revenue loss, Justice wants a series of tax increases, including a rise in the state sales tax from six percent to nearly eight percent.

The headwinds against this bill are building.

Business organizations oppose the bill as it is currently written for several reasons—the higher sales taxes, the exclusion of most small business from the tax cut.

House Finance Committee Chairman Eric Householder does not believe the Governor’s bill can pass the House, so he will propose the House Republican plan next week that phases out the income tax more gradually without any tax increases.

Justice’s reluctance to yield may be rooted in his experience as a high school basketball coach.  There are only two potential outcomes in a game—winning or losing.  Justice’s mindset is to go for the win because anything else is a defeat.

Coaches never want to give up, or have their players throw in the towel.  They believe, no matter the odds, that there remains an avenue to victory.  Coaches hate to lose.  Justice hates to lose.

He must be thinking that someway, somehow, he can convince legislators to support his tax plan, that he can win.

But Justice should also consider another sport he loves—golf.  Justice’s attempt to pass his tax bill is like playing a long par five. Justice wants to use his second shot to get over the water and on the green next to the pin, where he can putt for an eagle, a huge win.

However, as things stand now with his bill, that second shot is going to end up in the water and he is staring at a bogey or worse, a significant setback.

Instead, the governor should “lay up,” chip safely onto the green and putt for par.  It is a safe play, and it works.

The analogy means that instead of sticking with an all or nothing strategy, Justice could get on board with something that can pass both chambers. That would probably look more like the House plan of a gradual income tax decrease and no tax increases.

It lacks the thrill of victory that Justice is looking for with his tax bill, but it is also not a defeat; it is a pragmatic decision based on reality.

Otherwise, Justice’s plan is sunk, just like that golf ball on the second shot.


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