Only in West Virginia could politicians argue over a penny, as we saw as Republicans and Democrats wrangle over who should get credit for repeal of the final 1 percent of consumer sales tax on groceries.
The whole issue of the food tax being particularly onerous on the state's poor has always been a red herring, and particularly so for the state GOP.
Indeed, when then-Gov. Cecil Underwood put together a panel of experts to modernize the state's tax system, the governor's Commission on Fair Taxation gave low priority to repealing the food tax:
"Since many low-income individuals are able to pay for food with food stamps and WIC vouchers, which purchases are sales tax exempt, the Commission felt there were much better alternatives," the commission's 1999 report states.
When then-Gov. Joe Manchin started the phase-out of the food tax, Tom Witt, then director of the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at WVU, was dubious about any economic benefits from the cuts. He was quoted in the Gazette as saying, "Astute voters realize this is just pandering."
Now semi-retired, Witt made some clever Twitter comments over the kafuffle over who takes credit for elimination of the food tax. Among them, Witt pointed out that 55 to 60 percent of family food consumption occurs outside of grocery store purchases.
(Meals in restaurants remain subject to the 6 percent sales tax, but at least West Virginia hasn't followed the lead of other states, including Virginia and Ohio, in allowing counties and municipalities to impose additional taxes on prepared meals.)
Witt also quipped that he's waiting for the announcement of grocery stores opening in border counties.
Speaking of taxes, news this week that a well-intentioned tax credit for alternative fuel vehicles had blown a $29 million hole in state tax collections for 2012-13 should serve as a cautionary tale for future Legislatures.
The state has been allowing people to take write-offs on their personal income taxes, and businesses to credit either their corporate net or business franchise taxes, for purchases of alternative fuel vehicles since 1996. At the time, the credit maxed out at $3,750 for passenger cars, and $9,250 for trucks and commercial vehicles.
However, a little-known codicil in the 2011 Marcellus Gas and Manufacturers' Development Act extended and greatly expanded the tax credit, to 35 percent of the purchase price of alternative fuel vehicles, and raising the maximum write-offs to $7,500 for passenger vehicles, and $25,000 for trucks and commercial vehicles.