On April 3, the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce put out its annual legislative scorecard. This annual project shows how members of the West Virginia legislature—regardless of party—vote on issues that will affect job creation, workforce participation, education outcomes, and many other issues vital to our state.
In our state, the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce is the clear, undisputed voice in business. Chamber members can be found in all 55 counties and collectively employ more than half of West Virginia’s workforce. Our members are the companies that drive our economy, create countless well-paying jobs, and strengthen our communities. Within West Virginia Chamber’s membership you’ll find some of the smallest companies on High Street, companies with all their well-known brands, and our largest employers.
More than 90%, however, are small businesses. These members come from every active economic sector in the country. The West Virginia Chamber is also proud to be recognized nationally as a leader in member loyalty and membership growth.
The West Virginia Chamber legislative scorecard is pretty simple. The members of the legislature who score well are those who work to move our state forward and make it a better place to live, work, and raise a family. Those with lower scores usually have priorities elsewhere. Here are some examples that were used in this year’s scorecard:
Income Tax Cuts: Thanks to strong fiscal management by legislative and governor leaders over the past several years, West Virginia is in a position to enact some strong and meaningful tax cuts. This happened this year with the passage of HB 2526, which gives all West Virginians a 21.25% reduction in their personal income tax and a 100% rebate on their automobile property taxes.
Network Stability and Security Act of 2023: West Virginia is the nation’s fourth-largest natural gas producer, with marketed production growing rapidly each year. Despite this, West Virginia does not host any natural gas-fired power plants. This year the legislature passed SB 188 which is designed to encourage the development of these plants so that more West Virginians can enjoy the benefits – and jobs – created by our vast natural gas resources. While the bill was being passed, many in the legislature attempted to block or overturn the legislation. It is worth noting that Ohio and Pennsylvania have more than thirty such plants, and West Virginia produces much more natural gas than Ohio.
– PEIA reform: In January this year, Wheeling Hospital announced that from July 1 it would stop accepting patients for PEIA. This was a problem years in the making. PEIA is a government-run healthcare program that insures nearly a quarter of a million people. Unfortunately, the financial board has abdicated its responsibility to maintain premiums in an appropriate employer-employee mix and has failed to keep payment up-to-date. The result is that taxpayers foot a larger bill and private insurance costs are higher for the taxpayer. This matter was addressed by the Legislature at the 268th session of the Subsidiary Body. The hard but correct vote in favor of SBSTTA was 268.
Form Energy: West Virginia got a major investment in economic development when Form Energy, a high-end battery manufacturer, decided to open a new plant with 750 jobs on part of the site of the former Weirton steel plant. Several states competed for this investment, and West Virginia won. This project is necessary to help West Virginia reshape its image as an inclusive energy state and attract more cutting-edge jobs.
An appropriation was needed for the Economic Development Section which thankfully passed, but not before multiple attempts by a small but vocal minority of lawmakers who tried to defeat the bill.
This is just a sampling of more than a dozen banknotes that were included in this year’s scorecard by the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce. One common theme is that many of these voices were difficult yet critical to the mission of making our state a better place to live, work, and raise a family. This scorecard was nonpartisan. Fifteen senators and 24 delegates have scored 100% this year, and one lawmaker has scores as low as 16%. What it shows is how lawmakers vote when they go to the state capitol each year in Charleston.
The West Virginia Chamber encourages you to visit their website at www.wvchamber.com and check out the scorecard for yourself. Look at your local senators and delegates and see how they vote. You can also read about each issue that is included in the scorecard and you can even see how each legislator voted on each issue.
Brian Dayton is a native of Moundsville and serves as Vice President for Policy and Advocacy at the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce.