Do you ever wonder how your state income taxes are spent? Of course you do, and now there is a helpful tool on the website of State Auditor J.B. McCuskey that can show you.
When you go to the website you will see the big headline: “Where Your State Income Taxes Go (Estimator).” The link will take you to a tool where you enter the amount you paid in state income taxes and you will immediately see an estimate of how the money is spent.
For example, let’s use the imaginary Jones family. Their combined adjusted gross income for 2018 was $90,000 and they paid $4,700 in state income taxes on that amount. They entered that figure in the auditor’s calculator, and here’s what it revealed.
The biggest portion of their income tax payment, $2,033, goes to public education.
That category is broken down even further, but here are the top expenses — $628 for teacher salaries, $475 for retirement benefits, $240 for PEIA.
This came as a bit of a surprise to the Joneses. They knew operating the school system was expensive, but it was revealing to learn that 43 percent of their state income tax went to public education.
The Joneses have health insurance through work, and they know health care is expensive. They were anxious to learn how much of their tax dollars go toward health care for lower income West Virginians.
The auditor’s calculator showed that Health and Human Resources took the next biggest amount after public education — $1,234 out of their $4,700 payment, and the largest chunk of that, $569, went to Medicaid.
The Joneses did some quick math; 70 percent of the $4,700 they paid to the state in 2018 went to public education and social services.
The Joneses have heard and read a lot about crime associated with the drug crisis, so they wanted to see what portion of their tax money is dedicated to law enforcement. The calculator found that $108 of their income taxes helped fund the State Police, while $294 went to corrections, jails and prisons.
The Joneses have a daughter at Concord and a son who wants to go to WVU next year, so they’re aware of college costs, but the tax calculator showed them something they didn’t know; they are already sending money every year to higher education — $409 of their $4,700 payment goes to higher education, to be distributed among the state’s colleges, universities and community and technical colleges.
The list continued: The judicial branch received $143. There was $129 for a PEIA subsidy; $79 for the Commerce Department; $48 for the state public defender system; $24 to operate the legislative branch; $48 for the Board of Public Works and another $121 for what was defined as all other miscellaneous state government costs.
That brought the Joness to the bottom line — $4,700. The couple thought about it for a while, but they couldn’t decide what they felt about what they learned. They had always supported their community schools and the police, and they wanted to help those less fortunate than themselves, but they were unsure whether what they were paying was too much, too little or just right.
One thing they could agree on, however; It’s good to know where their tax money was spent.
Hoppy Kercheval is a MetroNews anchor and the longtime host of “Talkline.” Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.