2019: A busy year for West Virginia lawmakers

West Virginia

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WOWK) – 2019 began with an optimistic State of the State Address from Governor Jim Justice. The state was suddenly having a rare budget surplus, and he promised another 5-percent pay raise for all state employees, including teachers. But teachers went on strike again anyway, because included in the massive education reform bill was a provision to allow three charter schools in West Virginia.

“We do have some good things in the bill. However, we have so much negative, that it needs to be killed and needs to be redone, the bill,” said Logan County Teacher Gloria Triplett.

Delegate Marshall Wilson of Berkeley County said, “School choice is not only good for students, not only good for parents, not only good for taxpayers, but it’s good for educators because it allows them the leeway. It allows them the opportunity to innovate.”

It took until Summer, and a Special Session before the education reform bill finally passed. Also competing for money in the legislature, was the sorry state of many secondary roads in West Virginia.

State Sen. Randy Smith, (R) Preston
“You know we’re not just talking about getting roads paved, we’re talking getting them patched. You know we’re getting potholes, 10-12 inches, 14 inches deep,” State Senator Randy Smith of Preston County said.  

And among the highlights, the legislature did cut income taxes on social security recipients and approved free community and technical college tuition for thousands of students.

Julie Snider, High School Senior
“I know that there are a lot of kids, especially around here, that want to go to college. But they don’t have the funds to pay for it,” High School Senior Julie Snider said.

There was wide agreement in the legislature to diversify the state’s economy more, so lawmakers don’t have to rely mainly on fossil fuel severance taxes to fund the state.

“One trend in 2019, that is likely to continue into 2020, is the volatility of state revenue. Some months there are deficits and some months there are surpluses. Many leaders here at the Capitol, say the long-term financial outlook for West Virginia remains very uncertain,” Mark Curtis 13 News.

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