The 2018 legislative session has started
In his State of the State address, Governor Jim Justice outlined his priorities and agenda for the next 60 days. After many years of financial difficulties, the governor reported that we can finally see growth in the state’s economy. We cannot allow this growth to stop by not taking advantage of this second chance and reinvesting in ourselves. Governor Justice has pointed out some key areas for investment to be addressed and implemented, particularly in the areas of tourism, education, public employee compensation, and expansion of the natural gas industry.
My number one focus in the House has been to create good-paying, sustainable jobs for Jackson, Mason and Putnam counties. With that in mind, I fully support Governor Justice’s plans to reinvest in our state’s tourism industry. Every study shows that for every dollar we spend promoting ourselves – we see a return of eight dollars. An 800 percent return on investment and new jobs for our residents is a “no-brainer” and a huge win for West Virginia.
Every West Virginian should, and if I have anything to say about it, will have access to whatever educational opportunity they need to compete in the job market. Governor Justice outlined a plan to offer every West Virginia student with free community college tuition and allowing trade students to earn associate’s degrees in high school. I agree with the governor on some parts of this proposal. I believe that our community and technical colleges should be utilized where feasible to prepare our citizens for every possible opportunity for work, but we need to make smart decisions about it. We should determine what industries the private sector fails to provide training opportunities, and invest there. If private industry is investing in an industry, the state should not supplement their competition, duplicating effort and wasting taxpayer monies.
Public employee compensation must be addressed. In our area, the hard-working men and women of Lakin Correctional Facility are subject to long hours of overtime and low salaries which endanger the lives of both workers and inmates. Just a few weeks ago, Governor Justice was forced to call the National Guard into the prison system to help cover the shortfall. In the long-run, our state is losing millions in overtime, training costs, and other expenses because we fail to pay all state workers, not just correctional officers and staff, a decent, living wage. I support all efforts to ensure that we recruit and retain quality teachers, public safety officers, and other state employees.
Finally, a resolution calling for the elimination of the corporate industrial inventory tax over a seven year span could be placed on the November ballot. Beginning in 2020 and running through fiscal year 2027, roughly $20 million per year would be removed from state revenue. My concern is that the counties would then be required to raise property taxes to replace the revenue needed to operate. The ultimate consequences of the resolution must be considered, as I see a possibility of it being a tax increase on citizens as opposed to simply a tax cut for corporations, as it’s being presented.
As always, feel free to contact me with any issues or concerns at 304 593-5010, or by email at email@example.com. I appreciate your trust and support.
Scott Brewer, D-New Haven, represents the 13th District in the West Virginia House of Delegates.