Thoughts on three things as the Tri-State takes on the weekend:
Much talk has been spoken and many words written about the sharp decline in severance taxes in the first four months of West Virginia state government’s fiscal year. Severance tax collections have been $24.64 million less than what state officials expected. That’s a 24.5% drop.
What hasn’t gotten as much attention is the fact that personal income tax collections are $37.47 million, or 5.4%, below expectations. Some of that could be related to troubles in the coal industry, but it still is a matter of concern.
Despite those two deficits, consumer sales and service tax collections are $22 million, or 5.1%, ahead of expectations.
Gov. Jim Justice has told state agencies to plan for about $100 million in cutbacks before the end of the fiscal year. That’s a prudent approach, but a more prudent approach would have been a more conservative estimate of severance tax collections given the turmoil in the coal and natural gas industries. It’s something to be remembered as Justice prepares his budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year.
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With six fewer days between Thanksgiving and Christmas than last year, some big box stores have already announced free delivery during this year’s Christmas shopping season.
This year, “Free Shipping Day” will be Saturday, Dec. 14, according to www.freeshippingday.com. On Free Shipping Day, thousands of online retailers, both large and small, offer free shipping and guarantee items by Christmas Eve.
According to the annual National Retail Federation holiday survey, consumers will spend an average of $1,047, which is up 4% from last year. The survey also showed that 39% will start their holiday shopping in November.
It also showed that 92% of consumers plan to take advantage of free shipping, 48% will use ship-to-store pickup services and 16% plan to use same-day delivery, which has doubled since 2015.
Online shopping is easy, especially if merchandise can be ordered online and picked up at a local store. But it’s worthwhile to notice consumers can also shop at local brick and mortar stores, too. While their numbers may be fewer, there are still local stores owned by local people who could use the business, too.
As noted above, West Virginia’s personal income tax collections have come in below expectations in the first four months of the fiscal year. That could mean people in Appalachia will spend less this year because they will have less to spend.
If that’s the case, making each dollar count will be important. Keeping dollars local helps local people and the local economy.
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The recent epidemic of drug use — notably meth and opioids — has added to the problem of dental health in Appalachia. As reported Sunday in The Herald-Dispatch, people in the drug recovery effort are beginning to note the effect that drug use has on dental health and how replacing lost teeth can help in recovering from addiction.
As usual, one of the major problems in the recovery effort is money. West Virginia’s Medicaid program doesn’t cover prosthorthdontics. The resources that do exist are scattered, localized and dependent on the goodwill of dental health providers. They are also overwhelmed with people wanting help.
A study in Utah found that replacing a person’s lost teeth significantly increases that person’s chances of completing their recovery.
Part of any money recovered by the state or by localities in suing drug manufacturers, distributors and others for their roles in the opioid epidemic surely should be earmarked for helping recovering addicts with their dental health needs.