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WV election issues

April 24, 2000

Don't give us political blather, give us a plan for turning around West Virginia's economy.

That's the word from a group of more than 200 state voters, interviewed in 55 counties last summer by The Associated Press about a variety of issues. Many of those same voters were re-contacted recently and asked their opinions about the upcoming May 9 primary race.

The people interviewed said that instead of talking about how the state needs more jobs - an idea nobody disagrees with - citizens need specifics about how those jobs will be created.

For example, at a gubernatorial hopefuls' forum held this past Saturday at Marshall University, candidates again discussed the old idea of encouraging companies that build furniture and other wood-based products to locate in the state, to take advantage of the state's abundant timber resources. But except for a proposal to increase the tax on harvested timber, there wasn't even the skeleton of a plan presented.

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As new methods like so-called "mountaintop removal" reduce the need for personnel in the coal mines, the jobs that once sustained the state's interior counties are being lost, even as regions closer to the metropolitan areas threaten to become bedroom communities for those community to Washington, D.C.

Libertarian proposals to stimulate the economy by cutting taxes sound good, but don't address how to provide basic services in the time between when taxes are cut and the economy takes off.

So what's the answer? Last August, the Progressive Police Institute said that to improve its ability to compete in the so-called new economy, West Virginia needed to concentrate on training and education. The problem with that approach is that the same AP survey of voters last summer had citizens expressing concern that they were being taxed to educate students who then left the state.

Perhaps then the answer is to provide training and/or education at a reduced rate, in exchange for a promise that the recipient work in the state for a number of years after graduation. Perhaps after they put in a little time, they'll like it enough to stay.

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