As Gov. Jim Justice promotes his income tax cut proposal, he touts eliminating the tax as this great thing that will bring thousands of new people to West Virginia.
But he fails to account for the myriad factors that drive current and potential residents out of the state.
Like the newly passed Department of Environmental Protection rules bundle that will allow for increased amounts of toxic and carcinogenic pollutants to be dumped in our waterways. A bill, we might add, that was largely opposed by the general public. And of course, there’s the long and continuing history of putting the fossil fuel industry above all else.
Like the charter schools bills or the HOPE Scholarship bill, which now awaits the governor’s signature, that drive funding away from public schools. How Justice can dare to say West Virginia has made education its centerpiece while doing everything in its power to defund schools is beyond us.
Like the multitude of discriminatory bills that target the LGBTQ+ population. There’s the newly introduced anti-trans bill, HB 3199, which would force transgender students to use restrooms based on their sex assigned at birth. Or HB 2917, which would limit transgender athletes’ participation in sports based on their assigned sex at birth. Or HB 2693, which would eliminate local Human Rights Commissions.
Like the Senate bill, SB 558, that would prohibit discussions in schools about “divisive” topics like sex, gender, race and, subsequently, sexism and racism.
Justice and some legislators have asked, “what will keep young people in our state?” or “what will bring new people to West Virginia?”
None of the above.
According to Pew Research, about two-thirds of American adults think government does too little to protect against climate change and about as many think the government should be doing more to protect the environment. West Virginia’s less-than-environmentally friendly history and policies aren’t attractive to the environmentally conscious.
A poll from Christian Science Monitor found that more than one-third of parents saw lack of sufficient funding for public schools as the biggest challenge education faces. Parents on the whole are more concerned about their schools being underfunded than about standardized testing or teacher evaluations. Given that well-funded public schools seem to be a priority, West Virginia’s attempts to divert money away from public education aren’t likely to be an incentive for families looking to move here or stay here.
According to demographer Gary Gates, about 4% of Americans identify as LGBTQ+. That’s approximately 13 million people — not including their friends, families and allies. And none of them will want to come to or stay in a state that discriminates against them.
Perhaps Justice is trying to turn West Virginia into the nation’s retirement home. With the bills currently under consideration in the Legislature — or already passed — no young people, educated professionals or families will be following country roads to call this place home.