A weekly column by Gov. Joe Manchin.
In his State of the Union Address, I was pleased President Obama talked about many of the same issues West Virginians have been working to accomplish the last few years. Those topics include creating jobs, working across party lines, being financially responsible and achieving a balance between our environment and the need for energy.
In addition to the safety of our citizens, my top priority is creating jobs for West Virginia families. The president’s jobs bill and tax incentives for small businesses should help create more jobs across our nation and could have a real impact in the Mountain State. In West Virginia, more than 70 percent of business firms have fewer than 10 employees and almost 50 percent have fewer than four employees, so it is important to give our small businesses the tools they need to grow.
Considering all the discussion of the future of coal in West Virginia, it was great to hear the president discuss “continued investments in clean coal technologies.” As a nation, we must commit to the development of technology that enables us to use our tremendous coal resources in a more environmentally responsible manner. With our technical expertise and our coal, West Virginia will continue to play a key role in our nation’s energy future.
West Virginia has come a long way since 2005 because we have recognized the importance of working together toward the common goal of moving our state ahead. We will always have our differences, but in West Virginia, when it comes to the road to economic prosperity, the results are greatest when Republicans, Democrats and Independents work together to improve our state. I was encouraged President Obama asked Congress to put our citizens first and work together to move our nation forward.
I think most Americans and members of Congress understand the importance of being financially responsible. In West Virginia, we continue to operate state government in partnership with our citizens and businesses, managing our finances responsibly and treating our taxpayers like good customers, a concept I call “Retail Government.”
We have the results to prove this concept is working. Last year, West Virginia was a national leader in personal income growth, and we ranked second overall in the most recent index of state economic momentum. Since 2005, 243 companies have located or expanded in West Virginia and they have invested more than $9 billion here. West Virginia’s cost of living is below the national average and our Rainy Day fund is strong.
More than half of our states have laid off or furloughed workers, and at least 32 states have raised taxes or cut aid to local governments, but not West Virginia. Bipartisanship and responsible planning are paying off for our state, and it will work for our nation, as well.
I look forward to working with our president and our congressional delegation to move our state and nation forward.