By Micah Weglinski
As residents of West Virginia, we face a number of challenges. To list them all here would be a bigger challenge. Instead of focusing on our problems, I’d like to focus on some possible solutions.
First, we need an independent audit of all expenditures by the state to ensure our tax dollars are being spent responsibly. On June 19, a federal grand jury handed up a 22-count criminal indictment against state Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry, charging him with wire fraud, witness tampering and lying to federal investigators.
As a result, impeachment proceedings were authorized, and the House Judiciary Committee is investigating all five justices for their use of state resources, including vehicles, credit cards, money and furniture. On the eve of the judicial proceedings, Justice Menis Ketchum resigned. There is a possibility of more justices facing impeachment.
In general, we need to generate more revenue. One easy solution is to support the development of medical cannabis that was authorized by the House of Delegates and state Senate. We could join Alaska, California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington and legalize recreational cannabis, tax it and have all revenue go to funding the Public Employees Insurance Agency and fix infrastructure projects. Do the same for industrial hemp.
We need to invest in a diversified economy that utilizes all of the resources here, including tourism. Ecotourism is a huge industry, and West Virginia has abundant resources that have the potential to bring in money from out-of-state. Mountain biking, rock climbing, white water rafting, kayaking and backpacking are just a few examples.
We need to increase severance on gas and oil. Companies are extracting wealth from and are impacting our state. They should be reinvesting a portion of that money back into the state to improve the lives of all residents. Most of the gas/oil generated here is exported, so this won’t affect the price for end users here. Also, the surrounding states have higher a severance tax rate than we do, so we will still be competitive.
Did you know that every resident in West Virginia owns the surface water in the state? We are giving it away to corporations for free. A severance on surface water extraction would probably generate enough money to fix every major issue in West Virginia.
To help fix the roads quickly, we could raise the pay for state Division of Highways (DOH) workers and expedite the hiring process to get workers on the ground and fix and maintain roads.
We could change the formula for allocating funds to DOH districts based on number of vehicles on that road and not just the amount of miles.
This list is just a start. If we are able to come together as residents and identify common goals that we share, we will be able to actively work on solutions to our problems.
Micah Weglinski is a member of The Dominion Post’s Community Advisory Board.