Statehouse Beat: Justice Lies, Bloody Lies and Statistics | Phil kabler

Mark Twain popularized the phrase “Lies, Bloody Lies and Statistics,” and the saying came to mind last week while reading articles about a small net positive migration of new residents to the state over the course of fiscal year 2020-21.

Cited for the first time by the director of a right-wing state think tank (right-wing think tanks existed at the time of Bill Buckley, but are more of an oxymoron in the Trump era), the immigration numbers, coupled with a United Van Lines survey of top states for inbound movements, have been hailed by conservatives and right-wing media alike. ‘State as a justification for the political decisions of the legislature under Republican control.

Govt. Jim justice The moving company’s study touted during its COVID-19 briefing on Tuesday, saying West Virginia is one of the “top five states people are moving to.”

(Disappointingly, West Virginia Public Broadcasting responded to Justice’s comments by releasing a glowing report on the study of the moving company, as the Justice Administration’s transformation of WVPB from a independent press into part of the Justice propaganda machine continues.)

U.S. Census figures indeed show that West Virginia recorded a net migration gain of 2,243 for the 2020-21 fiscal year, but as Sean O’Leary from the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy noted, this was hardly unprecedented – or even unusual.

O’Leary, who is somewhat savvy when it comes to numbers, analyzed US Census data and found that West Virginia had enjoyed positive net migration for 11 consecutive years, from fiscal year 2001-02 to 2011-12 fiscal year.

Beyond that, in each of those years the state’s overall population grew, countering the Republican view that the state’s population has been in constant and steady decline since the 1950s.

O’Leary’s analysis also shows that the state’s population has declined every year since 2012-13, with population losses accelerating sharply in fiscal years 2015-16, 2016-17, and 2018-19.

(Even in 2020-2021, the year the Conservatives are touting, West Virginia’s overall population declined by nearly 7,000, even with immigration, as the state’s death rate far exceeded the birth-rate.)

That the state’s sharp decline in population coincides with the Republican takeover of the Legislature in 2015 is, I believe, no coincidence.

A significant number of people saw the legislature pass anti-worker, anti-education, and anti-discrimination policies and decided West Virginia was not where they belonged.

Meanwhile, unlike the media who reported the United Van Lines study at face value, O’Leary looked at the numbers behind the numbers and found he was using the relatively meaningless statistic of the immigration relationship. and emigration and was based on a total of only 451 movements, which makes it statistically insignificant.

Not to mention that this was a self-selection, as moving with United Van Lines is expensive and exceeds the price range of most West Virginia – which is why the company doesn’t was only used for 169 moves. The number of moves using U-Haul rentals would certainly have provided more useful data.

So why the slight increase in net migration in 2020-2021 after eight years of sharp decline?

A number of reasons. The pandemic, expats returning to West Virginia to retire, people returning home to care for elderly relatives, and more. However, the reality is that a year does not make a trend.

But, hey, just like justice and business estimate low-cost state revenues and then claim to have produced budget surpluses, what matters is the positive effect, even if it means relying on it. lies, bloody lies and statistics.

I have to admit, I can’t wait to watch the State of the State speech on Wednesday from the comfort of my chair for the first time in 33 years.

(I think I told the story of the first state of the state I covered, in 1990. Gov. Gaston Caperton, who was not a great orator, to say the least, decided to repeat the speech the day before in the House chamber, and sort of a reporter for the Daily Mail Jack Deutsch discovered that the acoustics made the adjacent Ladies’ Retreat Room a great place to listen to rehearsal. When I showed up for work the next day, Fanny seiler growled, “We don’t have to worry about the state of the state.” It’s already in the Daily Mail. “)

The state of the state has always been a stressful day for me, as I also covered the briefing on the budget bill in the afternoon when officials in the revenue and budget office review the plan. expenditure proposed by the governor for the next fiscal year. I would have to go back quickly to this story before turning my attention to the discourse of the State.

Initially, we received a draft of the embargoed speech during the budget briefing, which was helpful in initially sketching out a framework for the story of the speech.

Some governors were particularly good at sticking to the prepared text, notably Caperton and Earl Ray Tomblin, who, despite a long career in politics, was not used to giving scripted speeches, having relied for years on writing talking points on index cards for the speeches he gave during of his long tenure as President of the Senate.

Wise bob was good at it as well, sometimes adding asides to the scripted speech.

Joe manchin, on the other hand, was likely to slip out of the script for extended periods of time, and of course, Justice’s speeches are horrible to cover up, being nothing but a long stream of ad lib consciousness with no prepared text.

To complicate matters, the lead time to receive copies of embargoed speeches has narrowed over the years, from hours to minutes before the state of the state begins. This was courtesy of TV reporters who repeatedly broke the embargo by conducting interviews with lawmakers and others in the meantime, gaining advance reaction to proposals to be made in the speech.

The reduced lead time made it difficult to attempt to write a framework for the history of the speech, before having to monitor the address in real time to account for instances where governors went out of script.

With Justice, any prior preparation is impossible, leaving a very small window of time to try to come up with at least a coherent enough summary of his speech in time to meet the deadlines that seem earlier and earlier each year.

I can’t wait to leave this challenge to my colleagues on Wednesday, as I watch the address with my feet raised while enjoying a lovely Heavy Seas Double Cannon IPA.

Legislative sessions in the election year have traditionally been low-key as lawmakers running for re-election try to avoid controversial measures.

However, this paradigm is less applicable nowadays, as the Republican Party at national and local levels has shifted towards far-right extremism.

The word is to expect a segment of GOP lawmakers to use this session to throw red meat at their base. Look for a heavy dose of gun bills, abortion, discrimination based on faith, and efforts to limit the rights of anyone who does not check the boxes to be white, Christian and conservative.

However, one item that appears to be off the table for the 2022 session, based on Justice’s comments on Tuesday, is a revival of his ill-conceived state income tax repeal bill. .

Understandably, Justice was a little mistaken in explaining why he didn’t plan to review the legislation this session, blaming her on a provision Manchin, now the state’s senior US senator, had inserted into the American Rescue Plan Act.

According to Justice, “you can’t lower a tax and receive the US bailout dollars.”

The provision actually says that states cannot use pandemic relief funds to offset tax cuts, which makes a lot of sense: pandemic relief funds should be used for to alleviate the pandemic, not for tax breaks that disproportionately benefit the rich.

Given the sensitivity of the law, it is not surprising that the Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has joined a lawsuit filed by 12 other mostly southern states to block the measure.

Justice said during Tuesday’s COVID-19 briefing that he would like to revisit his proposed income tax repeal “at some point when we can do so with ARP money not being a factor “.

Justice is either genuinely obtuse or dishonest, given the political repercussions of raising a whole host of other taxes (including increasing sales taxes to the highest rate in the United States) to offset a tax which represents 43% of the total general revenue of the State each year. .

Supporting tax hikes is something no lawmaker wants to do in an election year.

Finally, I have been humbled by all the emails, calls and DMs congratulating me on my retirement, or more accurately, semi-retirement.

These days you sometimes wonder if someone is paying attention to everything you write. Based on the comments in my column on retirement, I was happy to hear that, yes, quite a few people are paying attention.

As you can see the column remains pretty much the same as it always has been, as I hope it will be for some time to come.

Phil Kabler has covered state politics for over 30 years and has been a Statehouse Beat columnist since 2003. He can be contacted at 304-348-1220 or philk@hdmediallc.com. Follow @PhilKabler on Twitter.