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Editorial: Returning to stale old policies won’t fix West Virginia

From The Charleston Gazette-Mail, Daily Mail page:

From the time Cass Gilbert’s grandiose state Capitol building in Charleston was first occupied in the 1930s, until the 2015 legislative session, Democrats had been the majority party in both legislative chambers of West Virginia’s state government.

How well did that work out for West Virginia?

Since 1950, the U.S. population has more than doubled, while West Virginia’s has shrunk by about 10 percent. The state has among the lowest rates of workforce participation, ranks low on educational attainment, ranks 49th in per capita income, and ranks 50th in U.S. News and World Report’s list of best states for business environment.

These conditions aren’t new. They are the result of generations of public policy that showed a hostility toward many businesses by levying high tax rates, excessive regulation and operating an overly plaintiff-friendly court system that seemed to dare business to try to make a profit in the Mountain State. Some may argue the coal industry was largely exempt from state government hostility, but there seemed little incentive for businesses outside of the energy industry to stay and thrive.

Voters finally had enough in 2014, and elected pro-business Republican majorities in the House and Senate. Since 2015, lawmakers led by a Republican majority have been taking steps to improve West Virginia’s business climate (although credit also goes to moderate and conservative Democrats who began the process a decade or so before), but turning the state around on so many measures will take many years. …

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