In Washington and West Virginia, our leaders are failing us. Things are so unhinged in D.C. that we hear more about tweets than thoughtful efforts to make government work. Too many of our leaders are paralyzed by partisanship, which leads to chaos in government. In West Virginia, we can’t afford another legislative session without taking common-sense, bold steps to invest in West Virginia’s future.
Jobs and the Economy
Even more so than in the past, it’s critically important to strengthen and expand the state economy now. Workforce participation in West Virginia is among the lowest in the country, coal severance taxes have declined significantly, and the state budget is in deep trouble. Basic government services that we expect and deserve are in jeopardy. We need to experiment with a variety of approaches to create jobs that build upon our strengths and our natural assets. Small businesses and entrepreneurs will play a large role in growing middle-class wages. With solid state policies, new energy opportunities will grow significantly in the future for coal, oil and gas, solar, and wind. Our high-technology, tourism, and agriculture sectors are also poised to grow and create jobs.
Quality of Life
It’s important that we improve the quality of life here in West Virginia to attract corporate investments and new employees, and to keep our existing population from moving away. High-speed internet, well-paved roads, sidewalks, parks, and a thriving arts community are all important for making Monongalia County a place that businesses and residents are proud to call home. Clean water and clean air are required not just for a healthy environment, but also to attract businesses that will grow the economy.
Serious accidents or illnesses can happen to anyone, but all West Virginians should have access to high quality, affordable health care. The Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act grants tens of thousands of West Virginians the freedom to pursue the American Dream without the fear of going bankrupt or skipping medical treatments. Our workforce is getting healthier, and jobs have been created for doctors and nurses—a bright spot in diversifying West Virginia’s economy. I oppose efforts in Washington to cut Medicaid. Should such a bill pass, I’ll work in the Legislature to ensure that as many West Virginians as possible are covered, without consideration for preexisting conditions or lifetime caps.
Our public education system is under attack. After years of short-sighted budget cuts, it’s no surprise that West Virginia ranks dead last in education attainment. And the Legislature wants to cut even more. Investment in education is an investment in our future. It provides West Virginians with the skills needed for the modern workforce, trains a new generation of innovators, and makes our communities attractive for corporate investments. Our teachers and school service personnel deserve pay increases so that we can compete with neighboring states and keep them in West Virginia. Also, stable funding for WVU and other public schools will keep tuition and college debt down and strengthen our local economy. Here in Monongalia County, WVU is a huge economic engine that deserves our support.
Two-thirds of Morgantown’s major roads are in poor or mediocre condition, costing drivers almost $1,500 per year. We need a dedicated, local transportation plan to address our traffic and infrastructure needs. These investments are critical not only for attracting the high-technology, high-wage jobs of the future, but also for supporting and growing the businesses and industries that are already here.
Supporting Working People
I support common-sense policies to support and grow the middle class and to address growing income inequality. That’s why I favor increasing the minimum wage to a living wage so that working people can earn a living without depending on welfare. I oppose so-called “right-to-work” legislation, because studies consistently show that workers in such states earn less, rely more on public assistance, and have more injuries on the job.
Drugs and Addiction
The heroin and prescription drug epidemic hurts our families, our community, and our workforce. While I support additional funding for law enforcement, we can’t simply arrest our way out of this problem. We also need to invest in treatment, with a recognition of the frequent links between addiction and mental illness, as well as the expansion of our drug courts. Creating well-paying jobs and improving access to health care will also help address this crisis.