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Brian Dayton: Economic Growth Solves Our Problems (Charleston Gazette-Mail)

3/9/2018

West Virginia continues to experience a steady economic recovery.  On Monday, March 5, Workforce West Virginia released updated employment numbers that compare January 2018 with January 2017.  Total Nonfarm Payroll Employment climbed to 748,800 jobs – a net gain of 3,500 over the past year, and several important sectors saw job growth: increases included 1,400 in Mining & Logging, 300 in Manufacturing, 1,700 in Education & Health Services, and 4,300 in Construction.

This latest report confirms a trend we began to witness early last year: West Virginia’s economic decline is over and things are looking up.  West Virginia is no longer staring at massive budget deficits that force us to make difficult and painful decisions.  Just this week, West Virginia’s legislative leadership was able to develop a plan to provide a 5% pay raise for teachers, school service personnel, state troopers, and all other state public employees without raising taxes or relying on last-minute revenue estimates.  These worker raises are possible in large part due to West Virginia’s economic recovery.

Maintaining a clear focus on pursuing policies that will lead to job growth allows us to solve complex problems and achieve big results.  More people working at good jobs means more people paying taxes, buying homes, stimulating the economy, and sending their kids to college.  More people working at good jobs means our state can find solutions to problems that were once seen as impossible.  The Legislature that was elected in 2014 and 2016 understands this, and they have pursued policies aimed at growing the state’s economy and creating more jobs.

But unfortunately, some would like to return to the times of yesteryear and enact policies that have been proven not to work.  A recent op-ed in the Charleston Gazette-Mail from the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy and Rise Up WV criticized West Virginia Chamber-supported business tax cuts from ten years ago that made West Virginia’s tax structure more competitive with other states.  The authors identified that we have fewer private sector jobs now than when those cuts were enacted.  However, those authors failed to mention that the policies of former President Barack Obama resulted in a hollowing out of West Virginia’s workforce.  We at the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce are working hard to replace the lost jobs.

The authors contend that revenues from recent tax cuts could have been used to fund PEIA (Public Employees Insurance Agency), and state that in the past three years, a teacher making the average salary in West Virginia has seen premiums for family coverage rise by $348 a year.  It is also true that if you look back four years instead of three, that same family has seen its premiums DECREASE by $168 a year.  PEIA enrollees have indeed seen increases in their deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums, but compared to 2012, that same family’s health insurance premiums have risen by less than 1% per year.

It is an unfortunate reality that for too many West Virginians, President Obama’s Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is failing to live up to its name, and healthcare costs are spiraling in many places.  As we seek solutions to rising healthcare costs for public workers, we must be cautious to avoid a short-term fix that will create even larger problems in the future.

Since 2014, the leadership of the West Virginia Legislature has remained committed to pursuing policies that make West Virginia more competitive and attractive to job creation.  The left, which has a nearly endless appetite for new taxes, has continually criticized this direction, but our legislators should be applauded for maintaining their focus on improving the economy for our state’s citizens. 

As West Virginia continues creating jobs, I encourage all to stay focused on policies that will improve our state’s economy.  Jobs are the answer.  When we have more jobs and opportunity for hard-working West Virginians, everyone benefits.

Brian Dayton is the Communications Manager of the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce
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