The big fix that followed in Senate Bill 373 made everybody involved feel good but did it solve anything?
Those in industries affected by this monumental accomplishment of the 2014 legislative session have only seen regulatory burdens increase along with insurance rates.
This year the Legislature is run by a different crowd that beats to a different drum. Instead of protecting the status quo and their “well connected” friends, they are taking on the tough issues that have held West Virginia back for generations. It was truly refreshing to walk under the dome last week and know that, soon, maybe we wouldn’t need to spend so much time there.
The fix is on starting with repeal of alternative fuel mandates, numerous legal reforms and legislation lowering the cost of infrastructure development by reigning in the “unprevailing wage” for public construction.
Next up are debates on workplace freedom and education.
Doing the right thing on these issues will go a long way toward our common goal of growing the economy and giving hope to future generations. As one newspaper editor put it: “Page 1 Wednesday had four articles from the Legislature that would have been monumental news on their own in years past”
As we reflect on the early success of this year’s session, we are reminded that there is much more to do.
A poll released by our Center for a Brighter Future Inc. (www.cfabf.org) indicated voters continue to prioritize jobs and the economy as their most important electoral issue. In fact, nearly everyone surveyed (98 percent) say that issue was important in determining for whom they would vote last November.
Small businesses provide the majority of jobs in the Mountain State and, unsurprisingly, 92 percent of respondents to the survey have a favorable opinion of West Virginia small businesses (significantly higher than the other groups and organizations evaluated).
On issues that related directly to the economy, three in five (66 percent) believe often government regulation is prohibitive to economic development and job growth opposed to the 30 percent of respondents who are more likely to agree government regulation is necessary and often serves the public good.
Most respondents oppose measures that afford special tax credits and incentives to a select few industries or organizations.
Also, noteworthy, a strong majority (76 percent) supports measures which would require greater financial disclosure from lobbyists.
The findings around these questions would seem to codify the electoral message sent in the last election that voters not only support but prioritize major economic reforms. It is reasonable to assume that these voters, who place such a premium on the economy and job creation, are receptive (and would likely support) to measures aimed at improving their economic condition.
Reading further between the lines, wouldn’t it be nice if the 95 percent of West Virginia employers who are small business could worry more about growing, and less about burdensome regulation, targeted tax breaks and lobbyists?
Just think: If every one of the 118,040 small businesses identified in West Virginia by the Small Business Administration in 2014 added just one employee, our economy would truly grow and diversify without government having to partner with anyone or thing.
Bill Maloney is a former West Virginia gubernatorial candidate and Morgantown businessman who now serves as president of Center for a Brighter Future.