Legislative Goals 2017
Create Jobs ∙ Improve Education ∙ Encourage Prosperity
Effective, Affordable, Efficient Government Services
In 2017, and continuing for several years in the future, our state faces serious financial challenges. Every effort must be made to restrain government costs and reduce unnecessary and duplicative services. Nearly one in every five workers in West Virginia is employed by a government entity. West Virginia is also 5th in the nation for the number of state workers relative to the total workforce. These statistics far exceed the average of most other states. Tax increases must not be considered as the solution to every state revenue problem. Government must reduce spending, eliminate waste and exhaust every possible opportunity to keep hard earned dollars in the pockets of taxpayers.
Competitive Business Climate
West Virginia must create new jobs and add to the number of full time workers throughout every region of the state. Economic development and job creation must be the lens through which legislation is considered. Our standard of living will be improved by adding more private sector jobs. More employment means more opportunity for working families. West Virginia was last in the nation for job creation from 2011 until 2015. Additionally, West Virginia was one of only five states to experience a reduction in its gross state product in the most recent year. This must be reversed.
Transparent and Streamlined Regulatory Processes
West Virginia’s environmental regulatory programs need careful attention, modernization and improvement. The West Virginia Chamber recommends full implementation of SB 619 (the Regulatory Reform Act) and appropriate follow-up legislation. Environmental regulations that are more stringent than federal requirements must be reexamined. In several instances West Virginia is an outlier when compared to surrounding states. Carefully crafted regulations can protect the environment while allowing West Virginians to return to industries that produce valuable goods and services.
Highly Competent Graduates and a Skilled Workforce
Students in West Virginia deserve the best possible education. Every child must have the opportunity to learn and succeed in our West Virginia schools. Our students and job seekers deserve a coordinated and comprehensive examination of school-to-work systems. State education policies must be critically examined. West Virginia consistently ranks among the top states in per pupil spending. Despite the high cost, West Virginia students consistently score in the lowest percentiles on nationally accepted tests that measure achievement. A well-trained and drug-free workforce will keep and attract employers.
Fair and Predictable Judicial System
Fair, impartial, and predictable judicial outcomes are a foundation of a free society. The West Virginia Chamber supports efforts to assure fair trials, transparency and balance throughout West Virginia’s judicial system. While much progress has been made on this front, West Virginia lacks a statutory right of appeal, has some of the highest punitive damage limits in the country, and lacks the transparency and accountability provided by an online case management system. The West Virginia Chamber supports measures to eliminate these outliers and bring West Virginia into the mainstream of jurisprudence.
Cultivate Energy and Natural Resource Production
The nation and the world need West Virginia’s energy and natural resources. The West Virginia Chamber supports state and federal initiatives to keep energy available and affordable. West Virginia’s natural resources contain enormous value. The careful, thoughtful use of these resources raises the standard of living and enhances life and lifestyle opportunities throughout the global community. The West Virginia Chamber supports legislation to increase energy production opportunities.
Grow Manufacturing Jobs
Manufacturing builds states. Increasing manufacturing employment will provide a significant boost to our state’s workforce. An increase in tax revenue will accompany added employment. West Virginia must enable and encourage manufacturers to grow in all parts of our state. Employment in the manufacturing sector creates some of our best paying jobs and an increase in employment will immediately improve West Virginia’s economy. When compared to other states, West Virginia ranks 37th in manufacturing workers per capita. Our abundant energy resources, proximity to major markets, stable workforce and a transportation network for the movement of goods can assist in the growth of this important industry sector.
Infrastructure and Transportation Support
Transportation and infrastructure are key ingredients for economic growth and the well being of our citizens. West Virginia’s roads and bridges are aging and in need of repairs and upgrades. Water, sewer, wireless and broadband availability are critical components of West Virginia’s infrastructure. West Virginia is making significant investment and progress is noteworthy. The West Virginia Chamber believes that investment in infrastructure must be supported throughout West Virginia.
Tourism and Small Business Growth
West Virginia is a beautiful state with gorgeous views in every region and every direction. Skiing, white water rafting and some of the world’s finest golf courses are found in our state. Every city is just minutes away from mountain scenery, state parks and recreational rivers and lakes. Small business is a cornerstone of West Virginia’s economy. Our small business neighbors are the backbone of our communities and provide countless goods and services. West Virginia must encourage diversity and plurality within our state. All efforts must be made to support and grow our tourism and small business industries.
Support Healthy Lifestyle and Public Safety Initiatives
The health, well-being and safety of West Virginia’s citizens and visitors is of the utmost importance. Encouraging and supporting good health initiatives remains a key goal of the West Virginia Chamber. Our public safety officers are among our most valued public officials. Law enforcement and first responders must be valued and retained. Better health, safer roads and highways, and law enforcement that addresses crime in our communities must be priorities for West Virginia lawmakers.