Compete on merit, not state of residence

Imagine you’re among West Virginians who have landed one of those good jobs in the oil and gas industry. You went back to school and got the specialized training needed. You work hard, but collect a good paycheck.

Now, your company has decided to drill some wells in Ohio. You load your equipment onto the truck and prepare to drive across the Fort Henry Bridge.

“Hold it,” your supervisor tells you. “You’re not coming. We need to lay you West Virginians off and hire Ohioans in your place. Otherwise, we’ll get burned on Ohio severance taxes.”

That would feel terribly unfair, wouldn’t it?

But if Ed Fitzgerald, the Democrat candidate for governor of Ohio, has his way, such a scenario may become reality.

Let’s back up a couple of years. Incumbent Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, certainly made it clear stereotypes about people in his party being pawns of big business aren’t accurate. He proposed stiff new oil and gas severance taxes in Ohio.

Legislators have balked. They’re considering lower rates than Kasich wanted.

But Fitzgerald, trying desperately to paint himself as a leader in creating jobs, has a different idea (incidentally, he’ll lose that argument; since Kasich became governor, employment has gone up by 243,900 in Ohio).

Fitzgerald says severance tax rates ought to be tied to the number of Ohioans a company paying them employs. Rates would be higher for oil and gas companies with more out-of-state workers.

That’s crazy, as Ohio Valley residents know. Every day, thousands of Ohioans cross the river to go to work in West Virginia, and vice versa.

So, should West Virginia find some way to increase taxes on in-state companies that employ too many Ohioans? Of course not.

But if Fitzgerald gets his way, that could happen. Ohio could become involved in jobs-for-tax-break wars with West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Kentucky and Michigan.

West Virginians and Ohioans are happy to compete for jobs based on our merits -not our states of residence. Suggestions we should view each other as enemies, somehow, just don’t cut it.