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Brian Dayton: Stay on the path to economic recovery (The State Journal)

11/27/2018

The West Virginia Chamber of Commerce has spoken for business for more than 80 years. Most Chamber members are small businesses located throughout the Mountain State. In fact, Chamber members are found in each of our 55 counties and employ more than half of the state’s workforce. And I can safely report that these small businesses are very optimistic about the future of West Virginia.

The economic recovery we are seeing in our state is a true comeback story. Good news continues to arrive every month signaling more jobs, lower unemployment and more opportunity for our citizens.

Starting in 2015, the West Virginia Legislature began to focus on passing legislation that helps grow the economy and foster job creation. With the passage of significant legal reforms, West Virginia’s court system began to move into the mainstream of other states. The goal of these reforms was for fair, predictable and stable judicial outcomes.

Reforms were implemented that required frequent evaluations of regulations on the books, helping to ease the bureaucratic burden placed on employers while ensuring reasonable and effective protections for our environment and citizens.

Good government issues were tackled, including non-partisan election of judges, the elimination of straight-ticket voting, and the requirement that the House of Delegates be divided into 100-single member districts.

West Virginia became the 26th state in the nation to adopt a Right-to-Work law, meaning that workers now have the freedom to choose whether or not to join a union.

And we are now seeing the fruits of these important reforms. The economic news in West Virginia is exciting and things are moving in the right direction. On Nov. 6, the voters of West Virginia gave their nod of approval and clearly stated that we should continue this course.

When the new Legislature convenes in January, delegates and senators should be mindful of the responsibility they have to do everything in their power to improve the lives of all West Virginians.

And as a solutions-based organization, the West Virginia Chamber and its members have several recommendations that will help continue West Virginia’s growth and prosperity:

An intermediate appellate court should be created, which would improve the quality and consistency of legal rulings throughout the state.

A statewide Online Case Management System should be established to provide transparency and ease of research for our legal system.

We must continue to modernize our tax structure. We are one of only seven states that continue to tax tangible business personal property, such as equipment and inventory.

We should explore attracting young workers to the state by allowing the deduction of student loan payments from the amount of state income taxes owed.

Those who are re-entering the workforce should be helped with basic needs such as help obtaining proper identification and assistance searching for employment.

A comprehensive solution to the opioid drug crisis must continue to be sought – and increased collaboration is essential.

Our state’s infrastructure must continue to be expanded and improved — and that includes giving West Virginians in all corners of the state the ability to access high-speed broadband internet.

And, most importantly — ensuring that our children receive a world-class education in our West Virginia schools.

These are just a few of the many items the Chamber advocates, but these are key issues that will continue the path to prosperity. Thanks to economic recovery, more jobs and better opportunity for our citizens, challenges that once seemed impassable are being overcome. West Virginia is on the right path. When legislators arrive at the Capitol in January, I encourage them to continue down it.

Brian Dayton is a native of Moundsville and holds a Political Science degree and Masters of Public Administration from West Virginia University. He is the Director of Research and Member Communications at the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce.

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