West Virginia is making a comeback. Recent reforms are letting taxpayers keep more of their money, protecting worker freedom, and cutting red tape on job creators. While we still have work to do, these commonsense reforms are kickstarting the West Virginia comeback. Watch the video and read more below!
West Virginia has long been an outlier when it comes to economic prosperity.
In 2015 we were the only state with less than half of our population working.i We’re one of the only states to have lost population since the 1950’s.ii In fact, our state has one of the oldest populations in Americaiii and is facing a demographic winter, meaning that more people are leaving the state or dying than are born or move here every year.iv
How did we get here?
For years, government over-regulation and a reckless tax-and-spend culture have created significant barriers to success for West Virginians – especially young, working age adults. Businesses and jobs have disappeared as government overreach has created an overwhelming burden for entrepreneurs and hard-working Mountaineers. It’s no secret that many policies are keeping us from enjoying the prosperity we deserve and creating a bleak picture for our children and grandchildren’s future.
However, it’s no longer just bad news.
Recent reforms have kick-started a comeback in West Virginia that is helping to protect taxpayers, create jobs, and transform our anemic economy.
Protecting taxpayers is essential to economic growth and individual prosperity.
Every day families across West Virginia make tough choices to prioritize how they will spend their household budget. Balancing a budget isn’t a novel idea. People everywhere know they can’t spend more than they have or live beyond their means. Our state government hasn’t always realized this – but taxpayers have always paid for it.
In the past, policy makers in Charleston have chosen to simply raise taxes on struggling West Virginia families instead of making tough choices to prioritize spending and cut wasteful spending.v Raising our high tax burden even higher on low-income families shouldn’t be an option – it’s simply irresponsible and unsustainable.
Passed Responsible Budgets: But there is a silver lining. Over the last few years lawmakers have rejected demands for higher taxes and reckless spending. Just last year lawmakers passed a responsible budget that observed reasonable spending limits.vi The new budget limited spending growth to population plus inflation – and didn’t raise taxes. These responsible budget choices are creating a more stable future for West Virginia taxpayers and helping our economy grow.
Rejected General Revenue Tax Hikes: In 2017, lawmakers rejected the largest tax increase proposal in West Virginia’s history.vii The proposal from Governor Jim Justice would have taken nearly half-a-billion dollars out of the economy and the pockets of already struggling West Virginians.viii Instead of putting a bigger burden on taxpayers, lawmaker chose to reduce government spending in order to balance the budget. This represented a major turning point in the struggle to limit big government policies and put taxpayers first.
Prevailing Wage Repeal: In 2016 lawmakers eliminated an antiquated and costly practice known as prevailing wage.ix Before repeal, government bureaucrats were required by law to artificially increase the price for labor on public construction projects.x This means any construction paid for with state money was more expensive than the market rate, forcing hardworking taxpayers to pick up the tab while local governments could not afford new school construction, road repairs, and other projects.
The repeal of prevailing wage means that schools, roads, and other public construction is less costly, allowing government to save taxpayers’ money and provide more public works.
Workers deserve to have their constitutional freedoms protected in the workplace.
Right to Work: In 2016, lawmakers made West Virginia the 26th Right to Work state.xi Right to work laws protect workers’ constitutional rights to freedom of speech and association.xii Without right to work laws, individual workers can be fired for refusing to pay union dues or fees—that’s just not right.
These dues and fees can contribute either directly or indirectly to union political activity that workers may disagree with. So, many workers are forced to either fund political stances they may disagree with or lose their job all together. Thankfully, because lawmakers passed Right to Work, no worker can be fired for refusing to fund political speech in West Virginia.
Additionally, studies have shown that giving workers greater freedom leads to faster income growth and greater job opportunity. From 2001 to 2011, right-to-work states added 1.7 million jobs while forced-union states lost 2 million.xiii
Entrepreneurs and workers should be allowed to do their job with minimal interference
Unnecessary, arbitrary government barriers stop people from being creative, producing new products, providing jobs, and promoting prosperity. Unfortunately, special interests in West Virginia have tried to limit competition through regulations, special interest handouts, and bureaucracy.
History proves that giving people the freedom to create, exchange, and work is the best way to lift people out of poverty. The good news is that West Virginia lawmakers are starting to increase that freedom by eliminating unnecessary and unfair occupational licensing requirements.
Safeguarding Taxpayers from Federal Overreach: As a result of the Obama Administration’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection was required to create a plan to comply with the economically harmful carbon regulations.xiv
In 2015, lawmakers passed legislation that required the state compliance plan be approved by the legislature before being submitted to the EPA.xv This action ensured that West Virginians, through their elected representatives, had a voice against costly federal overreach. The Clean Power Plan has since been halted by the United States Supreme Court.xvi The legislation passed in 2015 protected West Virginians from paying higher rates before the law was halted in court.
Nurse Licensure Compact: Waives fees required for nurses to practice in West Virginia.xvii
Advance Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) Collaborative Agreements: Eliminated the need for APRN’s to have a collaborative agreement with a doctor in order to practice nursing. This free-market solution is helping West Virginia be an innovator in healthcare by increasing access, efficiency and more choices for West Virginians.xviii
Regulatory Reform Act: Established a sunset for all future rules crafted by most state agencies, helping to ensure that West Virginians are protected from unnecessary or outdated government overreach.xx
[vi] House of Delegates (2017 1st Special Session, SB 1013, RCS# 671) | State Senate (2017 1st Special Session, SB 1013, RCS# 43)
[vii] House of Delegates (2017 Regular Session, HB 2816, HFA Butler 3-27 #1, RCS# 207) | State Senate (2017 Regular Session, SB 484, Floor Amendment, RCS# 249)
[ix] House of Delegates (2016 Regular Session, HB 4005, RCS# 17) | State Senate (2016 Regular Session, HB 4005, RCS# 51)
[xi] House of Delegates (2016 Regular Session, SB 1, RCS# 29) | State Senate (2016 Regular Session, SB 1, RCS# 2)
[xv] House of Delegates (2015 Regular Session, HB 2004, RCS# 39) | State Senate (2015 Regular Session, HB 2004, RCS# 75)
[xvii] House of Delegates (2017 Regular Session, HB 2522, RCS# 369) | State Senate (2017 Regular Session, HB 2522, RCS# 343)
[xviii] House of Delegates (2016 Regular Session, HB 4334, RCS# 589) | State Senate (2016 Regular Session, HB 4334, RCS# 389)
[xx] House of Delegates (2016 Regular Session, SB 619, RCS# 530) | State Senate (2016 Regular Session, SB 619, RCS# 210)