Create Good-Paying Jobs
Jobs not only provide food on the table and a roof overhead, but provide hope for a future. Our area has every ingredient for economic success – a hard-working workforce, a preeminent University and transportation access by Interstate, Airport, River and Rail. We need to expand the reach and use of Marshall University for Research and Development and business incubation. We need to promote technology, such as statewide Broadband Internet to give local businesses a competitive edge. We need to make the process easier to start and operate a business while also helping local banks get back to making capital available for our small businesses and entrepreneurs. Finally, while our energy sector must always have a seat at the table, we need to develop a diversified 21st century West Virginian economy that is ready to employ our companion goal – a skilled, drug-free workforce.
Fight the Drug Epidemic
There is no family or neighborhood untouched by the epidemic of drug abuse. At its core, this epidemic stems from a lack of hope. Our success will depend on our willingness to tackle the problem on all fronts, which I have seen described as four pillars – Prevention, Intervention, Treatment and Law Enforcement. We must vigorously support those agencies on the front line, including the recovery community, first responders, health care, court systems, social services and faith-based groups.
Improve K-12 School System and Expand Community & Technical Education
Our greatest hope for the future of West Virginia lies in our commitment to the education of our youth. As the son of a retired public school teacher, I know that the heart of this task lies in retaining and attracting the high quality teachers and school service personnel that we need to prepare our children for the 21st century economy. We must meet our obligations by fixing and funding PEIA. We must prioritize our budget to ensure competitive salaries for teachers and service personnel on increasing multi-year steps, such as recommended by the WVEA and AFT. We need to re-evaluate administrative requirements that require our educators to “teach for tests” with constantly changing standards and return to letting our children learn and our quality educators educate. Likewise, we need to expand non-college opportunities such as learning trades in community and technical education centers.
Invest in Higher Education
We can all agree that our young people are, unfortunately, our biggest export. Study after study shows that the economic return on investment in higher education is second to none. We have now cut "to the bone" and are making higher education inaccessible to many West Virginians. Likewise, every cut reduces the economic impact that our communities are seeing from renowned institutions like Marshall University. It is time to prioritize educational opportunities for all.
Fix the Budget Crisis
The West Virginia Constitution requires the Legislature to send the Governor a balanced budget each year. Largely because of the loss of anticipated coal severance tax revenue and the drop in natural gas prices, we are facing a long-term budget crisis. Our success will require us to carefully review our revenue and expenses in light of this changing economic reality. Any waste needs to be cut and the most efficient provision of services ensured. Likewise, we must ensure adequate revenue to meet our obligations and protect our priorities. As a small business owner, I have prepared and balanced budgets, met payroll and understand both sides of the equation.
Protect West Virginia Workers
While we focus on building an even better economy for West Virginia, we must be careful not to forget the working men and women who built this great State. I have seen firsthand the results when workplace safety is not prioritized. Our West Virginia Workers benefit from the ability to collectively bargain for better safety conditions, wages and benefits; as do our West Virginia Contractors from Prevailing Wage laws that ensure an equal footing with out of state companies. At this time, especially, we should be encouraging the vital function of organized labor in working to prepare a drug-free, skilled workforce.