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Approval of tax in the power line

18 September 2009 1,358 views No Comment

We wouldn’t blame Gov. Joe Manchin if he found himself scratching his head over the reasoning of some legislators who rejected his suggestion for a new tax earlier this year.

Manchin had suggested new taxes on high-voltage lines used to transmit electricity through West Virginia to other states. Reportedly, some legislators decided last winter that they didn’t want to pass such a bill without obtaining approval from the state Supreme Court – in advance.

That is ridiculous, of course. The court system, from magistrate judges on up to the Supreme Court of the United States, does not operate that way. We in the Ohio Valley were reminded of that earlier this month when Circuit Judge Arthur Recht refused to issue an advisory opinion in a lawsuit brought by the city of Wheeling against leaders of a petition drive concerning the two-officer cruiser issue. Both sides agree on the substance of the lawsuit, which is when a referendum on the two-officer cruiser rule should be held. As Recht explained, if there is no real dispute, judges don’t issue opinions.

This week a lawyer for the state Public Service Commission reminded legislators at an interim committee meeting that courts don’t hand out free legal advice. The state’s high court is unlikely to issue an opinion on Manchin’s tax proposal unless and until the Legislature approves a bill on the matter, the PSC attorney advised.

Another concern of some lawmakers earlier this year was that taxing the interstate power line would be unacceptable to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Again, however, we’ll never know unless and until West Virginia enacts such a tax.

Like Manchin, we do not believe in new taxes on West Virginians. But the governor’s proposed new levy would primarily affect the out-of-state consumers of power transmitted by high-voltage lines. Frankly, as we have stated previously, we see nothing wrong with West Virginians benefiting from such a tax. We dig the coal that generates the electricity in question. We have to make the sacrifices involved in construction of high-voltage power lines. Why should we not derive some benefit?

We encourage Manchin to propose the tax again when legislators meet for their regular session early next year. This time, lawmakers should approve it.


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