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George Hohmann: McGraw's consumer legacy

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Folks no doubt have differing views of former West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw's legacy.

I believe his most significant accomplishment was driving payday lenders out of the state and keeping others from moving in.

First American Cash Advance opened its first office in West Virginia in 2001. That same year Larry Kugler, president of First American Cash Advance's corporate parent, told me his company's typical loan was about 15 days and the annual percentage rate was 425 percent.

Companies like First American exploited holes in the web of bank regulations to offer such outrageous rates. By 2002 First American had eight offices around West Virginia.

McGraw doggedly fought the payday loan industry at every turn -- and won.

Speaking of McGraw's legacy, in my view his biggest flop was his occasional investigation of high gasoline prices.

Some years ago I asked McGraw about this. He said the federal government allows the oil companies to share price information and, therefore, nothing can be done at the state level.

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Last week's column about West Virginia's income tax touched some readers' nerves.

Barry Brasseur wrote, "As I sit here and read your column about the Governor bragging about not raising taxes I had to bite my lip.

"If you believe what the Kanawha County Assessor's Office is preaching in your same newspaper, that the state is pressuring counties to raise property taxes in order to bring in more revenue, then he is in fact presiding over people's taxes going up as much as 45 percent in what I and many of my friends call the keyboard appraisals," Brasseur wrote.

"The Assessor's Office does drive-bys of property and then unilaterally keyboards a huge tax increase, crushing people who cannot afford it or fight it. The Governor should be leading the fight to cap tax increases at 10 percent."

Regarding Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's 2011 veto of a bill that would have raised fees charged by the Division of Motor Vehicles, reader Jeff Krauklis wrote, "I moved to West Virginia in 1967. The big issues were roads and jobs.

"In the past 45 years West Virginia has made important advances," he said. "One thing that really impressed me is that roads were no longer an issue. Until Gov. Tomblin vetoed the road fees.

"I'm sure you live in a city. Come to Clay County and you will see what happens when there is no money for roads.

"Taxes pay for stuff."

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You know you're old if you remember when the U.S. Postal Service quit delivering mail twice a day. That happened in 1950.

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If your business is among the 23,000 enterprises in West Virginia selected by the U.S. Census Bureau to participate in the 2012 Economic Census, here's a reminder that the forms are due Tuesday.

Reach George Hohmann at business@dailymail.com or 304-348-4836.


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