Letters, Letters to the Editor, Opinion

March 10 letters to the editor

Cut, don’t phase out, Social Security tax

Elected officials in West Virginia remain concerned about the state’s workforce participation rate and the state’s stagnant population.

The West Virginia workforce participation rate is about 7% below the national average of 62.5%. In the age group 65-74, 19% of that age group continue to work.

Two of my friends were excited by Gov. Justice’s decision to eliminate the tax on Social Security benefits for those with incomes over $50,000. One of my friends is a school bus driver whose income would be below $50,000 if he didn’t work. Nationally, 72% of school bus drivers are age 50-plus. The average age of a school bus driver is 59. More people would work after the age of 65 if they didn’t have to pay a tax on their Social Security benefits.

Because of West Virginia’s great natural beauty, many assume that it would be easy to recruit retirees to the state. When a new retiree is thinking about moving, they consider three items: weather, the location of their grandchildren and the tax burden of the state under consideration. Since West Virginia is one of 10 or so states that tax Social Security benefits, many people eliminate West Virginia from consideration.

House Finance Chair Vernon Criss believes that individuals making over $50,000 are rich. But Parkersburg is not Morgantown. The Parkersburg cost of living is 1.9% below the state average — Morgantown is 13.1% above.

Chairman Criss proposed the phasing in of the tax cut over three years.

He was concerned that the total elimination of the tax would break the bank. But the $37 million in taxes in a $5 billion budget is just 75 cents on every $100.

The West Virginia Legislature needs to re-evaluate the phasing out of the tax on Social Security benefits during its next special session.

Dennis Poluga

Teachers and students still making the effort

The COVID pandemic both identified and amplified problems with our public school system. I remember when the pandemic hit and students went online for class. It seemed difficult to get students’ attention, and I remember thinking that it would be best for the students to just curl up with books by the fire for a few weeks.

But of course the pandemic didn’t just affect schools for weeks, but produced lasting effects on math and science scores. And so it’s heartening to see the continued efforts students and teachers are making post-pandemic in the article “Steering Success” (DP-03-10-24). On the first page, Jim Bissett made the point that at the core of a successful educational experience is a positive teacher-student connection, where the teacher is a cheerleader who believes in you or a coach who must sometimes admonish. Or both.

So it’s brilliant that the “You Made a Difference” awards celebrated teachers with essays written by grateful students. A New York Times bestselling author once gave me advice about writer’s block: The key to defeating it was to write something, anything, and go fix it later. Getting students to write about their teachers is a great way to “write something, anything” that becomes a building block for more intellectual activity.

And the teachers got an award of $500. As the article noted, I can see more school supplies coming to the schools now! Thanks, DP, for the uplifting story about education and encouragement to keep teaching and learning.

Steven Knudsen