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Opinion —  U.S. Rep. Jenkins: 2017 was a year of wins for West Virginia

By U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va.

With the inauguration of President Donald Trump one year ago, America entered a new era of prosperity, hope and optimism. The president’s Make America Great Again strategy is putting American families first by creating jobs and growing our economy here at home.

U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va.

I’m proud to support our president and have worked closely with him in his first year in office to get West Virginia’s economy moving again. One year into the Trump administration, we’re seeing results here in West Virginia. Consumer confidence is up. Our unemployment rate has dropped as compared to one year ago.

Most notably, West Virginia had one of the highest GDP growth rates in the nation at 4.1 percent in the second quarter of 2017. According to the Mountain State Business Index from West Virginia University, West Virginia’s economy is in a recovery.

We all know that President Trump respects our nation’s coal miners and embraces coal as part of an all-of-the-above energy strategy. That’s a welcome change after eight years of anti-coal policies from Washington that put thousands of our hardworking miners on the unemployment line.

We started the year by rolling back a number of the Obama administration’s most anti-coal regulations, starting with the stream buffer zone rule that would have put one-third of all coal miners out of work. I was proud to join the president at the White House as he signed this resolution, which I sponsored, into law to protect our miners and their jobs.

In addition to rolling back job-killing regulations, we’re working to diversify our economy, create more jobs, and invest in our infrastructure. As go the roads, so go the jobs – and investing in our roads, bridges and airports creates more jobs and attracts new industries. I’ll continue to work to make sure the five-year highway funding bill, the FAST Act, is fully funded.

Through my work on the House Appropriations Committee, I also helped secure $55 million over the past two years to redevelop abandoned mine lands in West Virginia. Instead of sitting idle, these sites can now be used for new development – and to attract new industries to our state.

Building on that goal of economic diversification, I’ve also introduced the RECLAIM Act to free up the release of funds to redevelop even more of these sites. This bill was voted out of the House Natural Resources Committee in the fall, and I’m hopeful we’ll see even more progress in the new year.

We’re also committed to protecting our seniors and the benefits they have earned, as well as helping our middle-class families keep more of what they earn. We worked with the president to secure a permanent fix for the healthcare benefits for retired miners and their widows, giving them peace of mind after years of uncertainty. We also made no cuts or changes to Social Security or Medicare, despite rumors. The Tax Cuts & Jobs Act contains no cuts to either of these critical programs.

In fact, the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act will help many West Virginians – 83 percent of West Virginians take the standard deduction. This bill nearly doubles that standard deduction, which means more money in the pockets of West Virginia’s families. For example, a single parent of two will see an additional $1,892 in 2019, thanks to this new law.

Finally, the opioid crisis sweeping our nation is never far from anyone’s mind. I’ve sponsored legislation that’s been signed into law that protects newborn babies from the drug crisis and prenatal drug exposure. Working closely with my colleagues, we successfully made sure that important programs combating the opioid epidemic, like HIDTA, continue to be fully funded. President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump are committed to combating the opioid epidemic and helping the most vulnerable, newborns born exposed to opioids, and I will continue to work with the administration to find solutions to this crisis.

Just like many West Virginians, I’m optimistic about what the new year will bring. I’m committed to working with our president and my colleagues in Congress on policies and solutions that will make things better for all West Virginians. We need more jobs, more investment and more opportunity for all Americans – and by working together, we can make West Virginia great again.

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