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How to Cut WV Poverty Rate? Pay Women More

The Free Press WV

In a new report, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research compared incomes of women and men of the same ages and education levels, working the same number of hours.

It found for West Virginia, women would see their average earnings increase almost $6,500 a year if paid the same as men.

And, since women are now breadwinners in half of American families with young children, the report says 26 million children across the U.S. also would benefit from their moms making more.

So, study director Jessica Milli says closing the gender wage gap is much more than a women’s issue.

“The additional income that equal pay would add to family incomes would reduce the poverty rate among children by nearly half, and so that was also a really striking finding from our analysis,“ she states.

The report says closing the pay gap would reduce the poverty rate in West Virginia from 8.5 percent to 5.3 percent, and add about $2.5 billion annually to the state’s economy.

Now, on average, a woman would have to work 10 years longer than a man to close the pay gap.

Milli adds the gap isn’t always a result of intentional unfairness – it’s partly because more women work in jobs that have traditionally paid less.

She says states and Congress could do more to modernize pay-related laws.

“Legislation that prohibits employers from asking potential new hires for their salary histories when they’re thinking about making an offer to them would have a huge impact on pay equality between men and women,“ she states.

Milli notes closing the pay gap would boost the entire U.S. economy, adding $500 billion a year nationally.

For now, women earn about 80 cents for every dollar a man makes, which translates to a loss that tops $415,000 dollars over a 40-year career.

~~  Chris Thomas ~~

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~~~ Readers' Comments ~~~

I just heard of a study done nationwide that states women are actually paid the same as men in similar jobs.  The difference is women are the birthers of children and often leave the workforce for a period of time or take part-time work or lesser paying jobs to be the nurturing parent of those children.
Has nothing to do with earning less at the same job.

By Truth  on  05.20.2017

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Kroger Is Launching A Blue Apron Killer

The Free Press WV

Kroger is diving into the fast-growing meal-kit business.

The supermarket chain is offering meal kits — or packages that contain recipes and accompanying ingredients — at a handful of stores and launching them nationwide over the next year, Kroger CEO Rodney McMullen said in a letter to shareholders.

The $1.5 billion meal-kit market is currently dominated by Blue Apron, a subscription service that now delivers more than 8 million meals a month — up from about 1 million meals per month two years ago. Blue Apron costs $20 for a meal that services two people.

But Kroger has two major advantages compared to Blue Apron.

First of all, Kroger’s boxes are cheaper, costing about $14 for a meal that feeds two people.

Kroger also goes a step further than Blue Apron by doing most of the food prep for customers. No chopping, slicing, dicing, grating, or other work is necessary — all the ingredients are ready to be cooked.

This means the meals can take a lot less time to make. Kroger says its meals take about 20 minutes to prepare “from kit to fork,“ whereas Blue Apron meals tend to require about 45 minutes of prep and cooking time.

Customers can select from a variety of different meals at Kroger stores where the kits are currently offered. Soon, they will be available nationwide. 

McMullen says meal kits are one of many “megatrends” that Kroger is hoping to tap into this year.

“Our culinary team has developed delicious meal kits that are available in pilot stores today, and we have plans to quickly make them available at scale over the course of the next year,“ he said. “Meal kits are one of many offerings designed to meet our customers’ changing definition of convenience.“

The meal-kit business is rapidly growing, and getting increasingly crowded along the way.

More than 100 companies now offer the kits, including Plated, HelloFresh, Sun Basket, and Amazon (in limited cities).  Supermarkets including Publix, Fresh Market, and Whole Foods are also testing the kits in some stores.

Opinion: Natural Gas —  A Solution for WV

The Free Press WV

As a lawyer and lobbyist for IOGA of WV I read with interest the text of a recent article on the WV Metronews website discussing the state’s revenue and budget posture.  As a past president of IOGA of WV years ago when my career was more exclusively grounded in oil and gas law, I took note of comments therein regarding potential new or increased taxation of oil and gas production activities.

Any analysis of the impact of new or increased taxation must begin with the fundamental appreciation that there is an oversupply of natural gas waiting on pipeline construction to move at least some of that gas to waiting markets nationally and to international export outlets.  That oversupply factor has resulted in a very low commodity price for natural gas.  This has worked a severe hardship on West Virginia producers.

Without going into detail, the fact is that most producers in our state are realizing a very minimal net revenue on a per unit basis for the natural gas they are producing.  Due to the market dynamics of having a price per unit established at an indexing point in Louisiana and the distant location of the prolific shale gas fields of our region of the country (which are now the dominant force in supplying the nation with natural gas), there is something called negative basis applied to the price realized at the wellhead in West Virginia which very significantly reduces the price at the West Virginia wellhead.  Additionally, there are very significant natural gas gathering and transportation charges associated with moving gas from the wellhead to market, which a WV producer is obligated to pay to owners and operators of those interstate pipelines. As a result, most producers realize far less than $1 per unit of gas produced, and in many cases not even $0.25, from which they must pay their operational costs. Operating costs many times far exceed the revenue realized by the operator.

In other words, they are upside down from the get go, yet due to the pipeline transportation contracts under which they are obligated, they have no logical choice other than to continue to produce and generate as much revenue as they can, if for no other reason than to avoid paying for pipeline transportation they must pay, regardless of whether they actually transport any gas or not.

It is for this reason that an increase in the severance tax under any format – tiered severance tax or otherwise – or for that matter any tax increase imposed on natural gas producers is an impediment to future natural gas drilling and industry investment in West Virginia.  In fact, any additional cost burden to natural gas producers at this time is an anti-competitive force in terms of attracting drilling capital to West Virginia.  Our state need not make it more difficult from a financial perspective to conduct business at a time when we need all the investment and legitimate, high wage jobs we can get.

Natural gas can be a solution. The capacity to generate revenue for West Virginia through the efforts of the natural gas industry should not be bypassed.  There are other ways of achieving revenue and value from the industry which do not involve increased costs to producers.  There can be progressive policies which foster the development of the industry and thereby stimulate investment and job creation.  Actually, these ways are fairly simple and not difficult to understand.

First, we must recognize natural gas as a solution and not a problem.  It is the only reliable energy source for electric power generation with a very recognizable reduction in carbon emissions as our nation transitions from coal as a fuel to natural gas as a fuel for electric power generation.  It is the lowest cost new baseload fuel source for electric generation we have in our country.  This translates into lower power costs for American manufacturers and helps keep America competitive.  For those who prefer wind and solar power – which are intermittent sources of power – natural gas balances very well and assures us of a reliable source of electric power with a reduced carbon emission level.

One should note that there are no new coal fueled electric power plants which have been permitted and being readied for construction in the U.S. at this time.  Economically, it does not make sense to utilize coal as a base fuel for power generation.  With natural gas being so cheap, generating substantially less carbon emissions and with an abundant long term supply available for many decades, it only makes sense.  Moreover, gas fueled power generation facilities also enjoy the lowest cost of operation.

Next, we need to recognize that with the shale gas revolution has come considerable and evolving technology to make natural gas more cost efficient to develop.  Unfortunately, West Virginia has not accepted this proposition and denied modern policies which reflect the use of such technologies to maximize investment and production.  Extended lateral drilling, consisting of drilling horizontally for 3 or more miles, and utilizing a technology known as “geo-steering” to modify the direction of the horizontal lateral from time to time to keep the lateral line in the “sweet spot” of the geologic formation, enables enhanced cost efficient production.  This allows for increased production creating more investment dollars, jobs and severance tax revenue for West Virginia.

Adoption of policies to facilitate contemporary drilling and production of natural gas in West Virginia to produce clean burning, cost efficient natural gas, taking advantage of the riches of the shale gas formations underlying our state is just one answer to help stimulate the investment essential to help revitalize our economy and produce additional revenues for our state.  Increasing taxes on an industry that is in a daily fight for survival is a counterproductive response to those objectives.

West Virginia, unfortunately, does not have a plethora of industries with known growth potential.  However, natural gas is one which does and we need to focus on building value rather than diminishing value.

~~  Phil Reale - Attorney Charleston, WV ~~

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~~~ Readers' Comments ~~~

Mr. Reale.  Nice reading, but little substance.  I understand those writing your paycheck want something in return.

On one hand you claim producers cannot make a profit and on the other, there is enough money to save West Virginia?  Which?

You say increasing taxes on an industry that is in a daily fight for survival makes oil and gas lobbying a lost cause?  Or is a new lobby needed?

By Harold W.  on  05.18.2017

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Progress Report on $160M Settlement with Frontier

The Free Press WV

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey announced Frontier Communications has increased internet speeds for approximately 36 percent of customers impacted by its estimated $160 million settlement with West Virginia.

Frontier Communications entered into the settlement to resolve complaints about internet speeds provided to its customers. The agreement, announced in December 2015, marked the largest, independently negotiated consumer protection settlement in West Virginia history.

“My office continues to closely monitor Frontier’s compliance with our settlement,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “This agreement improves connectivity for thousands in West Virginia. It’s also crucial to helping the state compete in this ever evolving world of digital technology.”

The multi-faceted agreement requires Frontier to invest at least $150 million in capital expenditures to increase internet speeds across West Virginia and lower monthly rates for affected consumers.

Frontier, to date, has spent $72.6 million in capital expenditures, funds which the company reports has increased internet speeds to 9,910 customers throughout West Virginia, according to the company’s most recent quarterly report filed with the Attorney General’s Office.

The Attorney General’s Office, between 2013 and 2015, received multiple complaints from customers paying for Frontier’s high-speed service, which advertised internet speeds up to 6 megabits per second.

Many consumers advised their Frontier service was slow or did not meet expectations. The subsequent investigation found many customers expecting internet speeds “up to 6 Mbps” frequently received speeds 1.5 Mbps or lower.

Frontier denied any allegation of wrongdoing and entered into the settlement to resolve disputed claims without the necessity of protracted and expensive litigation.

The settlement specifically required Frontier to invest $150 million, in addition to its $180 million in planned upgrades as part of the federal government’s Connect America Fund II program.

The discounted monthly rate set bills for approximately 27,500 affected customers at $9.99 – a reduction expected to cost Frontier $6.25 million per year, which will shrink with time as the discount remains in effect until mandated improvements allow Frontier to increase existing download speeds.

Initiative to Fight Identity Theft

The Free Press WV

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has embarked upon a new initiative in the fight against identity theft, in particular theft that involves the skimming of credit and debit cards.

The Attorney General, in a letter to gasoline stations and convenience stores across West Virginia, requested information on ways to raise skimming awareness and prevention among business owners, managers and consumers.

“Importantly, this letter is not a part of an investigation into your business,” Attorney General Morrisey wrote. “We are asking for your input. With your help, our office hopes to create guidelines and strategies for helping retail gas and convenience store owners prevent and reduce skimming.”

Skimmers – handheld devices and others attached to gasoline pumps and automated teller machines – allow identity thieves to steal credit/debit card information from the card’s magnetic strip.

The devices store the stolen data until it is transferred onto a counterfeit card. Thieves then use the counterfeit replica to charge an untold number of purchases onto the cardholder’s account without authorization.

In some instances, thieves also use unauthorized cameras to record the consumer’s personal identification number.

Skimmers are increasingly difficult to detect due to advancements in technology, however consumers should watch for anything attached to a gas pump or ATM card slot. Susceptibility also can occur at restaurants, retail establishments and anywhere consumers lose sight of their card in making a purchase.

The Attorney General urges consumers to always use their chip card as opposed to swiping the magnetic strip. Also, they should cover the screen when typing PIN numbers, never share or write down such passcodes and refrain from choosing easy or obvious passwords, such as birthdays, a mother’s maiden name or the last four digits of a Social Security number.

A few things that can help those who fall prey to skimming include:

  • Place a fraud report with credit reporting agencies.
  • Contact your financial institution.
  • Order credit reports.
  • File a police report.

The Attorney General’s letter can be read at

For more information on skimming and identity theft, see a full brochure at

Anyone who believes they have been the victim of identity theft should contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 1.800.368.8808, the Eastern Panhandle Consumer Protection Office in Martinsburg at 304.267.0239 or visit the office online at

DeVos Undoes Obama Student Loan Protections

New actions withdraw protections due to “inconsistencies and shortcomings”

The Free Press WV

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has rolled back an Obama administration attempt to reform how student loan servicers collect debt.

President Barack Obama issued a pair of memorandums last year requiring that the government’s Federal Student Aid office, which services $1.1 trillion in government-owned student loans, do more to help borrowers manage, or even discharge, their debt. But in a memorandum to the department’s student aid office, DeVos formally withdrew the Obama memos.

The previous administration’s approach, DeVos said, was inconsistent and full of shortcomings. She didn’t detail how the moves fell short, and her spokesmen, Jim Bradshaw and Matthew Frendewey, didn’t respond to requests for comment.

DeVos’ move comes a week after one of the student loan industry’s main lobbies asked for Congress’ help in delaying or substantially changing the Education Department’s loan servicing plans. In a pair of April 4 letters to leaders of the House and Senate appropriations committees, the National Council of Higher Education Resources said there were too many unanswered questions, including whether the Obama administration’s approach would be unnecessarily expensive.

A recent epidemic of student loan defaults and what authorities describe as systematic mistreatment of borrowers prompted the Obama administration, in its waning days, to force the FSA office to emphasize how debtors are treated, rather than maximize the amount of cash they can stump up to meet their obligations.

Obama’s team also sought to reduce the possibility that new contracts would be given to companies that mislead or otherwise harm debtors. The current round of contracts will terminate in 2019, and among three finalists for a new contract is Navient Corp. In January, state attorneys general in Illinois and Washington, along with the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or CFPB, sued Navient over allegations the company abused borrowers by taking shortcuts to boost its own bottom line. Navient has denied the allegations.

The withdrawal of the Obama administration guidelines could make Navient a more likely contender for that contract, government officials said. Navient shares moved higher after the government released DeVos’ decision around 11:30 a.m. New York time. Navient stock ended up almost 2 percent.

The Obama administration vision for how federal loans would be serviced almost certainly meant the feds would have to increase how much they pay loan contractors to collect monthly payments from borrowers and counsel them on repayment options. Already, the government annually spends around $800 million to collect on almost $1.1 trillion of debt. DeVos, however, made clear that her department would focus on curbing costs.

“We must create a student loan servicing environment that provides the highest quality customer service and increases accountability and transparency for all borrowers, while also limiting the cost to taxpayers,” DeVos said.

With her memo, DeVos has taken control of the complex and widely derided system in which the federal government collects monthly payments from tens of millions of Americans with government-owned student loans. The CFPB said in 2015 that the manner in which student loans are collected has been marred by “widespread failures.”

DeVos’ move “will certainly increase the likelihood of default,” said David Bergeron, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a Washington think tank with close ties to Democrats. Bergeron worked under Democratic and Republican administrations over more than 30 years at the Education Department. He retired as the head of postsecondary education.

During Obama’s eight years in office, some 8.7 million Americans defaulted on their student loans, for a rate of one default roughly every 29 seconds.

Former Deputy Treasury Secretary Sarah Bloom Raskin worked on student loan policy during the latter years of the Obama administration, in part over concern that borrowers’ struggles were affecting the management of U.S. debt. DeVos’ decision to reverse some of her work “with no coherent explanation or substitute” effectively means that the Trump administration is placing the welfare of loan contractors above those of student debtors, she said.

In a statement, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who is suing Navient, agreed: “The Department of Education has decided it does not need to protect student loan borrowers.”

~~  Shahien Nasiripour, Bloomberg News ~~

Deplaning of United Passenger Shows Why We Need Corporate Regulation

In a democracy, We the People are in charge. We are the boss of the corporations. At least that’s how it’s supposed to work.

Apparently, that isn’t so much the way it is anymore. The United States used to regulate corporations to protect people from concentrated power. Now concentrated power has taken over our government, which fights the people for the benefit of corporate profits.

Or, to paraphrase John Kenneth Galbraith: In democracy, We the People regulate corporations. In deregulated America it’s the other way around.

The Face Of Deregulation

This is what can happen to you now in the United States if you get in the way of something a corporation wants:

We’ve all seen the videos. A guy gets beaten and dragged from his paid seat on a United Airlines flight because, in essence, he was interfering with corporate profits just by being in the seat. The airplane was full, the corporation decided it could make more money by moving some employees to another town, and a passenger was in the way.

Airline Deregulation

Airlines used to be regulated in the U.S. as a public utility that served citizens. They competed with each other by offering better service.

Then in 1978, airlines were deregulated and passengers were considered consumers instead of citizens. The airlines argued that more competition would bring benefits. Instead, as time passed, airlines did what corporations tend to do.

They consolidated, reducing competition. They reduced and reduced and reduced service to reduce costs. They cut employee wages and benefits. They changed routes to “hubs” for their convenience, causing passengers to have to wait hours in crowded airports. And they write contracts that said you can’t use their (essential) service without signing away every right you have.

Since deregulation, airlines intentionally overbook many flights. They scrunch as many people into smaller and smaller seats just inches from the next, and sell you more legroom. Instead of serving food, they sell it. They charge you if you travel a suitcase. They charge you to bring a travel bag on the plane.

Soon, they will put a large spike in the seat and charge you to shorten it.

And you can’t do anything about it. You can’t even complain without risking being considered “disruptive” and dragged from the airplane and jailed. And be careful how you dress.

Not Just Airlines

It’s not just airlines. All kinds of corporate deregulation have been harming We the People. There used to be regulations requiring broadcast media to act in the public interest in exchange for use of publicly-owned broadcast frequencies. Now, obviously, there isn’t.

Pollution rules are being deregulated. Pesticides that harm children are being deregulated. The list is long.

“Arbitration clauses” are now used in all kinds of contracts and agreements to keep you from being able to take corporations to court. “Tort reform” laws also restrict access to courts when people are harmed by corporations.

You get the idea.

“Burdensome” Regulations

Corporations complain that regulations are “burdensome.” They complain that regulations cost them money.

Of course, regulations that stop corporations from polluting streams place a “burden” on them to properly dispose of waste. Of course it costs money to require them to not just dump waste into rivers, streams, and the air we breath.

Carmakers used to complain that rules requiring seat belts in cars were a “burden.” Tobacco companies used to complain that stopping them from selling cigarettes to kids “cost money.” So far, government regulation has protected us from these abuses-for-profit. But for how long?

Who Is Our Country FOR?

Americans have lost our understanding of the meaning of democracy and of the powers democracy brings us and duties it places on us. We have become consumers instead of citizens and we think that markets should make decisions for us instead of our votes.

In a democracy, We the People are supposed to be in charge. In a democracy, our government by definition exists to serve us, protect us, and do things for us that make our lives better.

A democracy regulates corporations to protect people from concentrated power. If we let concentrated power make decisions for us, we end up getting dragged off of airplanes because the corporation decided the seat we paid for would make them a bit more profit.

Corporations should be regulated to serve the public interest. Why else would We the People want to allow these things called corporations to exist at all?

~~  Dave Johnson ~~

ED Programs Set To Lose Another $3 Billion

A plan to fund defense spending would eliminate billions more from the federal education budget for the rest of this fiscal year
The Free Press WV

Donald Trump is asking Congress to cut almost $3 billion from the federal education budget for the remainder of the fiscal year, according to a document obtained by Politico.

The memo offers an in-depth look at some of the proposed cuts and program eliminations.

These latest cuts are in addition to next year’s proposed budget, which would see $9 million slashed from the U.S. Department of Education.

The cuts are intended to increase military spending and finance the construction of a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Congress must pass a plan to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year to avoid a partial government shut-down. As Bloomberg News reports, Congress is likely to reject the White House’s additional proposed budget cuts, which total nearly $18 million in all, making the prospect of a shutdown all the more real.

The proposed additional cuts would cut $1.3 billion from this year’s Pell grant surplus–this is on top of the cuts proposed for next year.

Title II, Part A funding, which helps ensure teacher and principal quality and preparedness through PD programs, would be cut in half this year. As previously reported, Trump’s FY 2018 budget would eliminate the program entirely.

“This program provides formula grants to States to improve instruction and reduce class sizes,” the document states. “Funding is poorly targeted and supports practices that are not evidence-based. Other funding at ED can be used to support improved instruction.”

The Striving Readers program, which helps fund literacy instruction in low-income schools, also faces elimination. “A recent study found that more than half of the reading interventions used by grantees had no effects on student achievement. Also, other funding at ED (e.g. Title I grants) can be used to support literacy instruction,” according to the document.

Under President Trump’s proposed FY 2018 education budget, school choice would receive a massive $1.4 billion while the Education Department undergoes a $9 billion, or 13 percent, cut.

Overall, the proposed education budget cuts the Education Department’s budget from $68 million to $59 billion.

Title I funds would receive a $1 billion increase, but the funds would follow individual students should they decide to change schools.

IDEA funding for programs that support students with special needs and disabilities would remain stable at $13 billion.

In a statement, AFT President Randi Weingarten said the proposed education budget “takes a meat cleaver to public education.”

~~  Laura Ascione ~~

State Extends Application Deadline for Higher Education Grant Program Until May 01, 2017

The Free Press WV

West Virginia’s Higher Education Policy Commission (HEPC) and Community and Technical College System (CTCS) today announced that this year’s application deadline for the need-based Higher Education Grant Program has been extended until 11:59 p.m. on Monday, May 01, 2017. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which is the only application required for the grant, can be completed at  

The state extended the deadline because of a technology issue at the federal level. Last month, the U.S. Department of Education and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced an outage of the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, which allows students and parents to electronically access, review and transfer tax information required for the FAFSA. Federal officials are working to correct the issue, but estimate the tool will be unavailable until at least next fall.  

“The Higher Education Grant is a lifeline to college for thousands of low-income students in our state, and we want to ensure that they and their families have ample time to complete the necessary steps to apply,” said Paul Hill, HEPC Chancellor.

“We still encourage completion of the FAFSA as soon as possible, but we hope this extension allows as many students as possible to be considered for the grant, which paves the way for so many of our community and technical college students,” said Sarah Tucker, CTCS Chancellor.

Like in previous years when the IRS Data Retrieval Tool was not an option, students and parents can estimate their income information on the FAFSA and correct the information later, if necessary, in order to meet financial aid deadlines.

If students or their parents do not have a paper or electronic copy of the necessary tax form available – which for this year is the 2015 tax return – they can access it online at . A hard copy can be requested by calling 1.800.908.9946 and a transcript will be delivered to the address on record within 5-10 days.

For help completing the FAFSA or applying for financial aid, West Virginia students and families can call the HEPC and CTCS financial aid office at 888-825-5707 or visit the state’s free college-planning website at

Trump’s Budget: More for Defense

The Free Press WV

Trump’s FY18 Budget Blueprint came out this morning.

Well, not the whole budget but just the “discretionary” portion of the budget. And the message is simple. There is $54 billion more for defense and $54 billion less for everything else.

Let’s see. $54 billion in a $1,065 billion discretionary budget? That’s a change of about five percent. Yay!

But, of course, it gores a bunch of liberal sacred cows:

AgencyFY18 Change
in $ billion
Health and
Human Services
State and Intl Aid-10.9
Corps of Engrs-1.0

It’s all in Table 2. 2018 Discretionary Overview by Major Agency, in the Trump Budget Blueprint.

All this is in “Budget Authority,“ which is not the same as actual spending, or “Outlays.“ And it represents $1,065 billion out of a $4,000 billion budget. The remaining $3 trillion in “mandatory” spending is yet to come.

And with the rest of the budget will come the all-important Historical Tables on which the data in is based.

What about the mandatory spending? Right now, FY18 spending for Social Security is budgeted at $1,031 billion and Medicare at $608 billion. President Trump says he is not going to touch them, so that’s all right. Then there is Medicaid at $568 billion and I don’t know what will happen there, what with Trumpcare and all.

I suppose all liberals all over the nation are going to be screaming their heads off at this budget. Why is this?

The answer is that the programs that liberals really love are the regulatory programs that employ liberals to order the rest of us around. Most of the federal budget consists of handouts of free stuff to middle-class people that cannot be touched. But where liberals really live is where the power lies. And for the last 100 years, power issues from the arbitrary rules and regulations of the administrative state. To make us safe. To save the planet.

I am always amazed at how we manage to scream and yell about the tiniest things in politics. Wow! A cut of $2.7 billion at the Environmental Protection Agency! It’s the End of the World!

If only.

But I tell you what intrigues me. It’s the $4.0 billion cut at the Department of Justice. There is nothing about this in the one-page summary for the Department of Justice in the Blueprint. There is a cryptic note about “mandatory spending changes involving the Crime Victims Fund and the Assets Forfeiture Fund.“ So what is going on?

Could it be that the Trumpists are taking the “negative spending” from fines and asset forfeitures away from the Justice Department and putting them into the general revenue—you know, taxes—that goes direct to the Department of Treasury.

If I were president, I would eliminate all “negative spending” where individual agencies get to keep monies like fees and fines and Medicare premiums instead of the money going to the Treasury.

In my administration all money collected by the Feds would be general revenue, and all money would go through the Treasury.

Free Income Tax Preparation Assistance at GSC

Free assistance is being offered again through a partnership between the Internal Revenue Service and the Glenville State College accounting program to help students, faculty, staff, and local residents file their basic federal and West Virginia income tax returns. Two options are available to qualifying taxpayers – ‘MyFreeTaxes’ and Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Free File.

GSC students, Moriah CreelFox, Robert (Simeon) Kees, and Tyler Wood, who are IRS-certified and enrolled in GSC’s Accounting 399 course, are available to assist qualifying taxpayers who need help preparing their basic Federal and West Virginia income tax returns. The students are under the supervision of Site Coordinator and GSC Associate Professor of Business and Accounting Cheryl McKinney, CPA, MPA, CGMA. McKinney also serves as the chair for the Department of Business. Creelfox is from Orma, Kees is from Oak Hill, and Wood is from Weston; all three are accounting majors.

The Free Press WV
GSC student income tax volunteers
(standing L-R) Tyler Wood, Simeon Kees, and Moriah Creelfox
with VITA Site Coordinator Cheryl McKinney

Available again this year is ‘MyFreeTaxes,’ which is an easy, fast, and secure federal and state tax filing site provided through the United Way and powered by H&R Block software. The online tool allows eligible taxpayers with household adjusted gross incomes up to $64,000 annually to self-prepare and electronically file both federal and state returns free of charge by visiting and following the easy steps.

Taxpayers who prefer to have a trained volunteer assist in the tax filing process or have questions about using MyFreeTaxes can go to Room 309B of the Administration Building (the Ernie Smith Computer Lab). The volunteers will be available now through April 18 on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 3:00-6:30 p.m. with no appointment necessary. Note that no one will be available March 21 or 23 because of GSC’s Spring Break.

Participants seeking assistance at the GSC VITA site may choose the TurboTax Freedom Edition (Intuit), Second Story Tax Act, On-Line Taxes (OLT), or H&R Block Free File programs based upon eligibility criteria. Once an account is created at the GSC location, it may be accessed from anywhere.

Those who wish to receive this free tax assistance should bring: a copy of their 2015 tax return, Wage and Earnings Statements (Form W-2) from all employers, Interest and Dividend Statements (Form 1099), any additional relevant information or forms relating to income and expenses, as well as bank routing and account numbers for direct deposit/direct payment, if desired.

Students who received financial aid and/or paid tuition and fees should also bring a copy of their Tuition Statement (Form 1098-T) provided by the school that lists tuition and fees paid and scholarships received.

For more information, contact McKinney at or 304.462.6263.

Ball Now In WV GOP’s Court On Budget

The Free Press WV

It would be unfair, as well as overly simplistic, to suggest that Governor Justice’s proposed budget for next fiscal year is dead on arrival at the Legislature.  After all, Justice’s plan, which raises $450 million in general revenue taxes, while only cutting $27 million in spending, is the only proposed budget that exists currently.

The Governor submits a budget to lawmakers with this implied instruction: “If you have a better idea, let’s see it.”  In this case, that puts the ball in the court of the Republican majorities in the Senate and the House of Delegates.

The reaction of Republican leaders to Justice’s massive tax increase and miniscule cuts ranged from disappointment to flabbergast and even anger. They were operating under the assumption, based on comments by Justice Chief of Staff Nick Casey on Talkline just a few days ago, that the administration was contemplating cuts of between $390 and $600 million.

House and Senate Republicans held a rare joint caucus Thursday to review the Governor’s budget and plan a strategy.  House Speaker Tim Armstead and Senate President Mitch Carmichael, appearing together on Talkline, agreed that they would now assume responsibility for developing a counter proposal that includes significant cuts.

The key for the GOP will be to ready that proposal quickly.  The longer they wait, the more it will appear that the Republicans cannot unify on the deep and potentially painful cuts they have been lobbying for.

Justice pleaded with lawmakers, and for that matter the entire state, during his State of the State address to support his tax increases.  His appeal was emotion; he hates tax increases, but it’s the only way out.  That pitch will no doubt work with those who have put their trust in Justice to lead the state out of the economic doldrums. To them, digging into their pockets for a few more bucks is a necessary, perhaps temporary, part of the plan.

But for others, it’s simple math.  State Chamber of Commerce President Steve Roberts says the proposed .20 percent tax on the gross revenues of businesses, along with eliminating sales tax exemptions for professional services and advertising, add up to about $300 million in new taxes on business, and that’s not the business-friendly message that Justice sold during the campaign.

We understand that campaigns are given to hyperbole and vague promises that are difficult to fulfill once in office, and the fact that Justice has made a 180 degree turn from what he said during the campaign about taxes is a fair criticism.  However, perhaps Justice’s greatest mistake prior to the election was to say repeatedly that turning around West Virginia would not be that hard.

As the new Governor is finding out, which many already knew or suspected, reversing the fortunes of West Virginia will be incredibly difficult.

~~  Hoppy Kercheval ~~

Alternative Budget To Governor’s Proposal

The Free Press WV

West Virginia Governor Jim Justice has proposed a responsible budget that will generate new revenues, create jobs and invest in the Mountain State’s future. If no revenue measures are passed, West Virginia will be faced with drastic cuts that will put thousands of hardworking men and women out of work and eliminate critical agencies and programs from state government.​

HERE is a link to download the alternative budget.

Voucher Plan Seen as Backdoor Medicare Cuts

Economists and seniors’ groups say a plan in Congress to make Medicare into a voucher system will shift substantial costs onto older Americans.
The Free Press WV

A plan in Congress to change the structure of Medicare is being called a threat to seniors’ health and finances by economists and advocates, including the seniors’ advocacy group AARP.

Led by House Speaker Paul Ryan, Republicans have voted to change Medicare from paying doctors directly to giving seniors vouchers they can use to buy private insurance – much like the subsidies in the insurance exchanges under the Affordable Care Act.

Elise Gould, a senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute, says that type of “premium support” would mean deep cuts in the program over time.

She warns to make up the difference, seniors would either have to pay thousands of dollars more out of pocket, or reduce the amount of medical care they get.

“Who’s going to pay for that?” she asks. “Patients and consumers – American citizens, the elderly people in this country – are then going to be saddled with those burdens. And that’s not actually going to lower costs overall.“

Ryan calls the cuts necessary because growing costs threaten to bankrupt the system.

But Gould argues the real problem is the overall cost of health care. She says Medicare’s costs are growing more slowly than private insurance, especially since the passage of health care reform.

Gould says it’s strange to hear people who call the ACA, or Obamacare, a disaster, argue in favor of making Medicare more like it.

She agrees that forcing people to pay more of the cost of their own care would do little to slow health care inflation, and could actually reduce the use of cheaper, preventive care, which the current Medicare system encourages.

“Medicare has been the leader in being able to restrain cost growth, and so that should be the model that we follow,” she states. “I don’t believe that that private competition is actually going to get you any cash savings in the long run.“

The current Medicare system is extremely popular among the 57 million Americans enrolled in it. West Virginia has a larger portion of its population enrolled in the program than almost any other state.

~~  Dan Heyman ~~

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