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Americans for Prosperity-West Virginia’s Path to Prosperity is a bold guide showing how lawmakers can rapidly turn West Virginia into a better place to live, work, and raise a family.
The disruptions we face due to the COVID-19 pandemic present many challenges that we must now unite in order to adequately face. Now, more than ever, is a time for coming together to accomplish good policy that improves peoples’ lives, while avoiding hyperbolic, partisan rhetoric that only serves to divide us. As one of the foremost policy organizations in West Virginia, Americans for Prosperity stands ready to partner with lawmakers of both parties to accomplish a robust response to the uncertain times ahead.
There are four areas of primary focus that we are highlighting: 1) Cutting red tape in health care; 2) Get people back to work by ensuring fiscally responsibility and long-term economic recovery; 3) Reimagining education in the era of COVID-19; and 4) Removing roadblocks to West Virginians accessing technology and innovation.
Even in normal circumstances West Virginians face health care shortages in nearly every county. In the wake of the Coronavirus, and the accompanying fears of a massive spike in patients overwhelming our already encumbered health care system, it is abundantly clear that practitioners face too many barriers to providing the care West Virginians deserve.
For too long Big Medical special interests, health care lobbyists, and rouge bureaucrats have fought to keep in place a wrongheaded status quo, holding the advancement of life saving services, procedures, and practitioners back from serving Mountaineers – just to protect their own bottom line. In a recent study, the Mercatus Center found West Virginia ranks 38th in the country for health care openness and access. This is not acceptable after witnessing what healthcare shortages do to our citizens’ health, safety, and prosperity. In order to combat future public health emergencies and, frankly, to provide a level of care that our citizens deserve, we recommend the following actions.
In order to remove red tape so that our medical community could more effectively respond to the COVID-19 crisis, Governor Justice, through executive order for the duration of the crisis as per his emergency powers, waived certain statutory requirements. If a law held back our response to COVID-19, it’s also holding back medical professionals from providing care to West Virginians under any circumstance. You should immediately adopt laws to permanently eliminate these statutory requirements:
Government has a proper role. However, our state government, in too many instances, works outside of its proper role. Our state is facing a $500M budget gap due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Previous legislatures, when faced with large holes in the budget, chose to increase taxes that hurt average people instead of reducing non-essential government spending. Under normal conditions, tax increases greatly slow economic activity and disproportionately hurt the most vulnerable.
Given the state of economic downturn that has accompanied our response to Coronavirus, not only is it unrealistic and unreasonable to increase individuals’ tax burden to address our budget shortfall, doing so will stall the economic recovery our state desperately needs. In short, tax increases to patch the budget are simply a non-starter. Period.
Instead, we recommend the following tax and spending reforms that will both help our short-term budget gap and, in the long-term, increase people’s financial well-being while bringing much needed increased population to the state.
This threat represents a call to action for fiscally responsible lawmakers to safeguard citizens from increased tax burdens, and instead choose to set every West Virginian up for success in the economic recovery effort to come. It also represents an opportunity to eliminate barriers in order to create the conditions for a new, stronger West Virginia economy in which every Mountaineer has an unprecedented ability to reach their full potential.
There is a well-intentioned, but ultimately destructive legislative culture that believes tax breaks for specific, often powerful and well-connected business interests helps grow the economy. This is empirically false.
These programs inflict insidious harm on the free market. Companies are rewarded for special interest lobbying activities rather than creating value. In practice, subsidies destroy economic value and corrupt our understanding of the benefits of free markets. Politicians and bureaucrats pick winners and losers, rather than consumers and free enterprise. Politically connected companies gain an unfair advantage over their competitors who then face significant barriers including higher costs.
Economic development subsidies don’t lead to greater prosperity. Economic growth, state per capita gross domestic product, or job growth do not increase due to corporate welfare programs. The benefits typically go to large, well-known corporations, not local businesses and can threaten a state’s fiscal health. And while subsidies do benefit the winners, they typically make no difference to a state’s overall prosperity and often hurt it. Little wonder, since the rest of the taxpayers, including local businesses, must pay the tab.
Economic development subsidies have little impact on location decisions. Predictably, the most important factors are market-oriented including a skilled labor force, affordable cost structures, and connection to markets. The most impactful government policies are regulatory burdens, not subsidies. In fact, many firms wind up locating exactly where they said they wanted to anyway regardless of proposed incentives.
Often, program details are not transparent, legislators and taxpayers do not know what government support has been given, what the total costs are, who received support, or what the results are. In some cases, results and reports are incorrect or misleading while oversight and controls are lax. Promised results are frequently not delivered.
These kinds of targeted subsidy programs have a corrupting effect on democratic institutions, incentivizing unproductive behaviors by politicians and businesses, and eroding public faith that the system is fair.
For every exemption, loophole, carveout, and sweetheart deal that lawmakers hand out in the form of corporate welfare takes us farther away from the robust, comprehensive tax reform we need to not only achieve the rapid economic recovery necessary for the state to survive the economic fallout of the pandemic, but the chance to give them a new, stronger economy. President Trump did this on the federal level with his historic Tax Cuts and Jobs Act
This public health crisis has been a shock to our collective system. Perhaps nowhere is this more true than in the area of education. Just because kids can’t be in school doesn’t mean learning stops. And in an uncertain future, it is high time we take proactive steps to make sure that every child has the chance at an education that is right for them, regardless of income level or ZIP code. Thankfully, principled lawmakers in West Virginia are ahead of the curve in highlighting the desperate need for more educational opportunities for every kid. Those policies are more timely now than ever.
All children in our state deserve an educational opportunity that best meets their unique needs – one that embraces the freedom of innovation and the dignity of the individual. We must provide educators the freedom to provide innovative solutions to educate our children. Educational innovation is about empowering educators and the community to meet the needs of unique families. We believe that the best way to achieve these goals is to offer every child a personalized education. Today, we no longer have to force students to conform to the same inflexible standardized system. Technology now allows us to build educational environments that are responsive to the unique needs and talents of every child. We support educational models that make learning more creative, more inspiring and simply more effective. Out of necessity, it is time to be bold by reimagining our approach to K-12 education.
Removing roadblocks to West Virginians accessing technology and innovation.
West Virginia’s Broadband Enhancement Council should take action: However, it appears that WV’s state commission on broadband already has taken some good first steps; their website already has a map pointing out where people can access wi-fi and they’ve already started mapping out which areas of the state don’t have access to high-speed internet so they can target them for future broadband deployment. They’re a bit ahead of the curve on this, honestly.
Endorse West Virginia’s Agenda
The Mountain State has turned a corner, but we have many more steps to take to give West Virginians the greatest opportunity to reach their potential. It won’t happen overnight, but we believe in our state and we’re holding politicians accountable who defend the broken status quo. Sign here to endorse the Path to Prosperity!