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Editorial: W.Va. Legislature, Gov. Justice work together to move state forward

From The Exponent Telegram of Clarksburg: 
While we’ve taken the West Virginia Legislature to task for its lack of productivity during past sessions, we must applaud lawmakers for this past week’s actions during a special session.

In two days, lawmakers passed five laws championed by Gov. Jim Justice in an effort to jump-start the road projects that voters overwhelmingly supported in the Oct. 7 special bond election.

Legislators also passed other key bills that should provide a spark to the state’s still-stagnant economy.

“It is gratifying to know that our lawmakers have come together to enact laws that will continue to move West Virginia forward,” Justice said in a prepared statement.

“During the last few months as I’ve traveled the state and listened to our citizens, these pieces of legislation were critical for us to do the will of the people — which is to put West Virginians back to work as quickly as possible, to take care of our veterans and to provide incentives to those who will preserve and redevelop our historical areas.”

Three of the bills directly relate to the pending road projects.

One strengthens the penalties under the West Virginia Jobs Act, which requires state residents to be hired for state projects. Seventy-five percent of a contractor’s workforce must be from the Mountain State, or else the company faces stiff penalties.

Another bill allows the state tax department to share tax payment information with the state Division of Highways so companies that owe taxes will have to pay up to be considered for state work.

The third bill shortens the time period for hiring employees at the Division of Highways and tax department because of the expected increased workload.

Two of the remaining three bills involved taxes.

One exempts military retirement pay from state personal income tax, while the other increase the amount of state tax credits available for the rehabilitation of historic structures that have been properly certified.

Both of these laws have value when you’re looking to boost economic development.

Retired military personnel provide a skilled workforce that could help in many areas of the state’s economy, while helping to bring in people to a state that has been in a steady decline.

The historic tax credits, when coupled with federal credits available, could provide developers with almost 50 percent of their project investment, although there are limits that apply.

With the number of aging downtown areas across the Mountain State, providing a funding mechanism that at least puts us on even standing with neighboring states is a step in the right direction.

The increase in the amount of state tax credits may not save every historic structure, but let’s face it — some are past saving.

But the tax credits could lead to substantial investments in downtown areas that could be viable if somebody chose to breathe a little life back into them.

When you look at the work accomplished by our lawmakers in just two days, you have to congratulate them for their due diligence, as well as Gov. Justice for his leadership and guidance.

Working together — which ultimately is the key ingredient — state lawmakers have put the residents of the Mountain State first and foremost in their efforts and started us on the pathway to a brighter future.

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