With the halfway point of the 2017 regular legislative session now behind us, I felt the need to speak on the floor last week and remind my colleagues of the urgent need for significant job creation in our state.
There have been many discussions about partisan political issues, including several pieces of legislation aimed at hurting labor unions and working people, but the leadership has not moved forward any initiatives to create jobs.
For instance, I noted that Governor Jim Justice has proposed an ambitious infrastructure plan that could put as many as 48,000 people to work. We all know that there is a critical need for infrastructure in West Virginia. Our economy’s future depends on its growth. Meanwhile, there are thousands of West Virginians trained and ready to get to work on projects this plan intends to create. To set the governor’s plan in motion, the Legislature must agree on a bond sale, which the governor proposes funding with a $35 million budget allocation.
Unfortunately, the strained state budget remains a major sticking point, with the governor having proposed two different versions in hopes of finding a compromise. Meanwhile, the Republican leadership just held a press conference announcing a “framework” for their budget proposal which appears significantly different – providing $400 million less than the governor, in part by not funding the governor’s “Save our State” economic development fund, not including a raise for teachers and making many cuts totaling more than $270 million (versus the governor’s $50 million in cuts).
Regardless of how the budget is finally negotiated, there will most certainly be millions of dollars in cuts, which will put a strain on many government services. Therefore, we must be deliberative, which is why I recently argued against legislation intended to eliminate the West Virginia Women’s Commission.
I believe the Legislature should be cautious about blanket eliminations of programs and services.
The Women’s Commission’s budget is $155,000 and we’re told they still have $34,000 left in the budget, a very small portion of our budget shortfall, only 0.00025 percent. The commission’s mission is to promote the empowerment of all West Virginia women through advocacy, research, education and consensus building. At a time when West Virginia families, including so many families led by single mothers, are struggling to get by, women in our communities need more, not less support.
Also in need of more support, are West Virginia’s returning veterans and our displaced coal miners. That’s why I am lead sponsor of House Bill 2625, the “Returning Veterans and Displaced Miners Jobs Act.” The legislation, which is cosponsored by both Democrats and Republicans, will assist returning veterans and displaced coal miners in finding meaningful employment through quality skills training using an apprenticeship program, a proven method of training that produces highly skilled workers and is particularly effective in the construction field.
Studies show veterans are about four times more likely to be enrolled in a registered apprenticeship program than civilian workers, while former coal miners are known to be highly skilled and productive workers.
This program could go a long way to help place valuable West Virginia workers in the much-needed construction positions that I hope will soon be created by our governor’s infrastructure initiative.
You can follow these bills and all other legislation this session by clicking on the “Bill Status” tab on the legislative web site: www.wvlegis.state.wv.us , where there is also a link to live broadcasts of committee meetings and floor sessions.
As your representative, I’d welcome your input on how you think we should move forward. My office number is 304-340-3146 and my email is [email protected] .
Thank you for your trust and support.
Delegate Scott Brewer
Scott Brewer (D-New Haven) represents the 13th District in the West Virginia House of Delegates.