Our Vision for West Virginia
West Virginia has fallen on hard times. Regular people are working more and more for less and less. Their average day is becoming a day of more hours worked and less money in their pockets to provide for their families. A powerful few in big business and politics grow richer and richer while our hardworking families are left behind. Those men and women have built this state; they are the heart and soul of West Virginia and we work to ensure that they get the quality of life that they deserve. Our families, our children, and our middle class are losing ground every day, and we are working to change the course before it is too late.
We have a lot of work to do and many challenges to face. Our economy caters to the powerful few while working families are seeing their wages stagnate or fall. Our children deserve our investment in their future and they deserve the best education we can provide for them so that they can stay here at home. Investing in our future, rather than chaining ourselves to the past, will pave the road ahead for our Mountain State. We will continue to work hard and take the following steps together to move West Virginia forward.
Our failing infrastructure can hardly be concealed. West Virginians feel it constantly, in our teeth, driving on unsafe, pot-holed roads or crumbling, dangerous bridges. They won’t fix themselves and there is several years’ worth of work to do just to bring what we have into good condition, and several more years to expand and improve capacity to accommodate and encourage growth.
Available infrastructure drives business location decisions. West Virginia saw that in 2014, when Proctor & Gamble made a major investment in our state based on the easy access to major US highways in the Eastern Panhandle. Unfortunately, much of the state is in far worse shape and we must commit to making the necessary repairs and improvements state-wide.
For too long, West Virginia has tried to cut its way to prosperity. Strangely, this has often been done in the name of “running the state like a business.” But every business owner knows that investment precedes growth. We must be prepared to invest in the quality of our own state if we expect to attract new businesses and people to come to West Virginia. Making the choice to invest in our roads will create jobs immediately to do the work, and more jobs in the long run as we reap the benefits of competitive infrastructure.
The prescription drug epidemic devastates lives and communities. Simplistic approaches have failed to achieve results and we need a new strategy. We’re going to address drug abuse comprehensively, understanding that public safety is paramount.
We need to explore new options and new ideas. Drug courts must be expanded and we need to ensure that the necessary treatment for addiction is available to those who will take advantage of it. Keeping an inmate in prison costs tens of thousands of dollars per year — a price we can only afford to pay when it means locking up dangerous, violent criminals.
Breaking the cycle of addiction includes providing a path to employment and a productive and meaningful life. We need to explore new options for individuals who have changed their lives is necessary to re-integrating them into society. Forgiving non-violent offenders is not only a mercy to them, but to the innocent children who are too often the ones to suffer when addiction goes untreated.
Student loan policies that don’t make sense have forced our young people to begin their working lives overburdened with debt before they’ve even got started. Starting a career used to mean saving some money in the early years toward a down payment for a home. Now, that money is taken away by banks and our young people feel like they are running in place for up to fifteen years.
We are determined to see West Virginia lead in this area. Too many of our young people, even when educated here at home, have felt the need to go elsewhere to earn the money to pay off student debt. No more. We will implement policies allowing energetic, motivated young people to reduce or eliminate student debt while they start careers here in our state.
Investing in our young people will pay the greatest dividends of all for West Virginia. By keeping our children close to home, we will reap the benefits of their energy, ingenuity, and imagination for generations to come. Relieving them of burdensome debt will jump-start that process now.
Over and over again, we’re told to cater to the interests of wealthy businesses and that if we do, economic activity and jobs will follow. It never has. The more cuts that are handed to the rich and powerful, the more our economy suffers, along with our state’s services and infrastructure.
We believe the economy in West Virginia, and this country, will always be driven by the middle class. Putting more money in the pockets of hardworking people creates demand, opens stores, and drives our economy forward. We are committed to a tax cut for the middle class, that is balanced by making sure that the wealthy pay their fair share.
The tax code is riddled with subsidies, breaks and exemptions for those who can afford expensive lobbyists to get them. We need to tighten up the code so that those taking home $200,000 or more don’t avoid the taxes they are supposed to pay to the system that is treating them so well.
The reality is, when more money goes into the pockets of the hardworking people who spend it here in West Virginia, everyone will do better.
Unlike those who focus on big businesses, or the daily gyrations of the New York Stock Exchange, we are the Party for people who live by the paycheck. Wages have been stagnant or falling across the country for too long and we need to implement policies that reverse this trend while avoiding wrong moves that depress wages further.
Policies advocated by powerful business interests that intend to break unions, hurt skilled tradesmen, or cheat schoolteachers of a fair wage must be vigorously fought. We are on to them, and we will not stand for policies that attack hardworking families’ wages.
In 2014 Governor Tomblin and Democrats passed legislation to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.75 in 2016. We can’t stop there. We need to ensure that women are getting equal pay for equal work. At 67.3%, West Virginia ranks second to dead last, having the second worst gender earnings ration in the United States.
To raise wages across the board, we need to make sure that West Virginia continues paying fair, competitive wages to its teachers, bricklayers and laborers. Private enterprise will only invest where the schools are attractive to employees, the roads are adequate for their needs, and the communities can provide decent services. Building the West Virginia we want to live in will make our state grow and create a brighter future.
We cannot be continually forced into the false choice the other side wants us to make. We can extract the bounty that lies within the earth without destroying the places we live. West Virginia’s children deserve safe, clean water to drink and clean air to breathe. Their health and safety should never be compromised as it was in 2014 when our capital city was without good water for a month.
During our last debate on how best to protect our drinking water, it repeatedly came up that our DEP had insufficient staff to inspect all the chemical tanks that could threaten our water supply. That has to be remedied. The loss to our families, our businesses and our reputation caused by the water crisis cannot be repeated.
Moreover, many smaller communities are in desperate need of help in maintaining their own aging water systems. We need to move immediately to secure this basic right and public health necessity for every West Virginian. In this day and age, there is simply no excuse for not providing clean, safe and available drinking water to every one of our people.
Our government must protect our constitutional rights as a first priority. We are committed to making sure that every West Virginian’s rights are preserved, by keeping them in balance with one another and making sure that our state uses common sense rules to protect our cherished freedoms.
We believe that the freedoms to speak, worship, and petition our governments define our society. The right to own and carry guns, the right to fair procedures in court, to legal counsel and to trial by jury are equally important. Under no circumstances will we allow the right to vote to be taken away from any West Virginian.
Moreover, our rights must be protected equally, and without exception, to all West Virginians who are constitutionally guaranteed the equal protection of the laws without regard to race, sex, color, creed, national origin or orientation. We will continue to oppose unfair discrimination against anyone in regard to their exercise of constitutional rights.
The bottom line is, we need to create jobs. We need to create good quality jobs here at home to ensure that mothers and fathers can provide for their families. Creating jobs will not only boost our economy, but it will keep our children here at home to better the future of our state. Without jobs our future leaves this state and talents go elsewhere to find work.
Our party means to create jobs here in West Virginia by investing in West Virginia. We can put people to work immediately by fixing our decaying roads and bridges. We can put more police officers on the street to combat the prescription drug epidemic. And we can invest in both the personnel and the facilities needed to improve our schools.
At the same time, our vision means middle class tax cuts and credits that put more money in the pockets of people who spend it here in West Virginia. Our education priorities include incentives for young people to start businesses in West Virginia. And the public investments discussed above will make our state an attractive place to live, to go to school, and to do business, spurring the private investments we need to get West Virginia back to work.
Commit to Education
Our most critical investment will be in education. We need first-class schools to help our children grow, learn, and compete in the modern world. We also need top-quality education if West Virginia hopes to attract new people and businesses to our state.
First and foremost, our strategy has to be about empowering teachers and unleashing their talent, dedication, and creative abilities in the classroom.
We also have to compete for teachers with our border states — a teacher can make up to $11,000 per year more by starting a career in Maryland versus here in West Virginia. We must correct that lack of competitiveness to ensure we attract, and retain, the very best educators we can get.
At the same time, raising wages and standards of living for all West Virginians will ensure that students have the support at home they need to take advantage of our renewed investments in schools and teachers as we race to the top.