Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:
The Charleston Gazette-Mail on entrepreneurial spirit in West Virginia:
Speaking to a group of journalists at an Associated Press-sponsored Legislative Lookahead just days before the 2016 legislative session started, State Senator Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, relayed what he said is a "crazy idea" for a tourist attraction in West Virginia.
He suggested building a full-size replica of a 19th century West Virginia town where tourists could come to experience life in the 1800s, dressing and living just as they might have 150 or so years ago.
"It's crazy," he said, "but I think it will work."
Lots of ideas were crazy before they changed the world.
Perhaps the peers of Michael Faraday thought his idea in the 1830s to build a noisy dynamo that would generate this mysterious energy called electricity was crazy.
Perhaps Alexander Graham Bell himself thought crazy the idea that two people across the globe could one day hold a small wireless device and have a conversation.
Judging from the comments to a Sunday Gazette-Mail article by Andrew Brown on Barbour County economic development officials working to bring Amish families and their productive businesses to the Philippi area, many readers think that idea is crazy.
But many don't realize that traditional methods of bringing in new business to West Virginia are not working.
"With the county failing to pull in advanced manufacturers or other large employers in the past, workers with the Barbour development authority staff believe welcoming Amish families into their county could be an alternative solution to some of their economic woes," Brown wrote.
Will an Amish community near Philippi save the state's economy? No.
Will a 19th-century tourist town replace the jobs, taxes and revenue that the coal industry used to bring in? Of course not.
No one economic development project will save the state. No one big manufacturer or industry will bring back the jobs and revenue lost over the last several years. But thousands of entrepreneurs with crazy ideas might.
"There's definitely no silver bullet," John Deskins, director of West Virginia University's Bureau of Business and Economic Research, said at the Legislative Lookahead. Deskins noted that West Virginia lost 8,000 to 9,000 jobs over the last few years.
"Our leaders need to make all policy decisions with an eye toward making the state attractive to potential businesses. Entrepreneurship is how you achieve economic diversification."
Coming up with crazy ideas to generate economic growth in the Mountain State is the right thing to do. What's really crazy is to keep watching jobs and residents disappear and doing nothing about it.
The Exponent Telegram on tobacco tax increase:
As fiscal conservatives, we're hesitant to support tax increases, but we find the proposed tobacco tax increases to be policy we can support.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's proposed increase of 45 cents per pack of cigarettes significantly trails what anti-tobacco supporters are requesting. They believe the state's current 55 cents per pack tax rate is a full $1 lower than the national average.
Other bills have been introduced to increase the cigarette tax the full $1, as well as increase the "other tobacco products," such as snuff and chewing tobacco, tax to anywhere from 39 to 50 percent.
We don't want to say how much the tax should be increased. We'll leave that to legislators and their staffs, who need to determine what makes the most sense in terms of creating revenue and promoting better health choices.
Our reasons for supporting this tax increase over other proposed tax hikes revolves around several factors.
First, the taxes imposed on tobacco products in West Virginia are significantly less than other states. In a time in which the state's budget is full of revenue holes, increasing a "sin" tax makes sense when the current tax is insufficient.
Also, the lower taxes inadvertently encourage tobacco use by keeping the products more affordable. That's great for the tobacco industry, but not taxpayers who are sometimes stuck paying the medical bills that long-time tobacco use tends to promote.
The final reason for supporting the tax increase is that the majority of the money will be used to help cover projected increases in PEIA insurance premiums for state workers, including public school teachers.
At a time when education has never been more important in promoting a better West Virginia, the PEIA increase is yet another reason to drive some of the better educators to other states or careers.
Also, state workers serve vital roles in many capacities. It would be good to find a way to keep their insurance rates from jumping so extensively. The tobacco tax increase will help offset the costs.
When you consider these factors, along with the state's declining revenues from natural resources' severance tax, lawmakers have few choices but to consider some type of revenue-generating option.
We agree with Republican legislative leaders that all efforts should be made to make government more efficient. But we also believe you can't cut your way to prosperity.
Increasing the tobacco tax makes sense in today's economy.
The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register on the war on drugs:
Even in small towns, heroin has become big business. That was evident this week, as New Martinsville police dealt with the largest seizure of illegal drugs in Wetzel County history.
Police from the Parlor City, assisted by the Monroe County sheriff's department, swooped down on a New Martinsville residence Monday night. They made two arrests, and picked up 675 "stamp bags" of heroin, along with $1,300 in cash.
That much heroin can be sold on the street for nearly $17,000.
Heroin and other illegal drugs have become a crisis in West Virginia. Small successes — a few people rehabilitated here, a few pushers taken off the streets there — seem insignificant in the context of the epidemic. The enormous amount of heroin seized in New Martinsville reinforces the point.
Some critics of how the "war on drugs" is being pursued point out it cannot be won by law enforcement. Every tool at our disposal, including treatment, needs to be used.
That is true enough. But New Martinsville and Monroe County authorities won a major battle in the war this week. Good for them!