WV CALA’s “Wants” Costs State Millions

It must be nice to get your money from some of America’s largest and wealthiest corporate special interests.  When you’ve got deep pockets like that, you don’t have to worry about piddling little things like tax dollars.  That explains why WV CALA cares so little about costing West Virginia taxpayers millions.  Why else would CALA push for an unnecessary intermediate court while at the same time fighting against a bill that would have help our state recover money stolen through fraud?

One of the items at the top of the CALA wish list is an intermediate appellate court—a proposal that would cost West Virginia taxpayers millions.  It’s estimated that the intermediate court would cost us more than $5 million each year, but that figure represents just the court’s direct costs.  It doesn’t include the additional legal expenses for state agencies such as the West Virginia Attorney General’s office, the West Virginia Public Defender Services, the West Virginia State Tax Department, the Public Service Commission and others.  It would also cost our county governments a lot more for our prosecuting attorneys’ offices.  That $5 million price tag doesn’t come close to what the real cost to taxpayers would be.

What makes it outrageous is that we don’t need it.

  • According to the West Virginia Supreme Court’s 2013 Statistical Report, the number of appeals declined to a 26-year low of just 1,360 cases.  Our appeals have declined more than 60 percent since 1999—according to the National Center for State Courts, this decrease is four-times the national average of 14 percent.  Why spend this kind of money when appeals are declining?
  • Additionally, the West Virginia Supreme Court implemented new rules of appellate procedure, which requires the court to outline in either a full opinion or a memorandum why a case was or was not accepted for appeal.  This guarantees the automatic right of appeal, and it was done at no additional cost to taxpayers.  Even the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce believes that we need to assess the effectiveness of these new rules before establishing a new intermediate court.

At the same time WV CALA is pushing the state to waste money, it is actively opposing the West Virginia False Claims Act, which would help the state recover millions in tax dollars stolen through fraud against the state government.  Under the proposed bill, those who knowingly submitted false claims to state government would have been liable for three times the government’s damages plus penalties. 

The bill’s whistleblower provision would have allowed citizens with evidence of fraud to sue on behalf of the government.  The whistleblowers would report the fraud to private attorneys, who would then use their time and money to build the case for the state.  Once filed, the Attorney General would review it and determine whether to join the private claim.  This would have helped the state uncover fraud and increase its ability to recover monies taken, all at minimal cost to taxpayers. 

More importantly, it works.  A fiscal note on North Carolina’s bill estimated it would recover more than $3 million annually.  A recent federal claim against JPMorgan Chase over bad loans led the U. S. government to recoup more than $500 million.  Another claim against a home-health company had a recovery of more than $120 million.  It is estimated that it has saved billions in federal tax dollars. 

Why would West Virginia not want to do the same? 

WV CALA claims that the bill would lead to more lawsuits.  The only way this would lead to a flood of lawsuits would be if hundreds of West Virginia businesses were defrauding the state and cheating taxpayers.  Unless the business is committing fraud, there is no case.  Unless fraud is rampant, it’s a non-issue.  If it is rampant, the bigger question is why does CALA want it to go unchecked and unpunished?

The truth is that WV CALA does not care about West Virginia, West Virginians or our tax dollars.  The only thing that matters is increasing the corporate bottom lines of its big-money, out-of-state donors.  Put West Virginia first.  Stop WV CALA.

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