FREEDOM RINGS HOLLOW - The Legislature Fiddles While West Virginia Burns

(03/11/2002)

by Kris Warner

Montani Semper Liberi. Mountaineers are always free. But, today, freedom in these mountains rings very hollow.

Our children, siblings, and friends leave our state in droves. Mountaineers are becoming an endangered species. Public debt and public obligations rise without limit. The only growth is in dwindling service industries oriented on an ever-aging population. A few government projects are meant to distract us from miserable conditions. In nearly every meaningful measure of economic development we rank at or near the bottom of our nation.

How did we get to this pitiful state of affairs? What went wrong? Why is our government incapable of doing anything about it? And why do the people put up with it?

Mountaineers are free -- free to pack their belongings and move to Charlotte, Columbus, or Washington. The proud ones who stay are driven to apathy by decades of economic decay and situations that never change. Increasingly, they don't vote; they don't get involved in the community; they quit.

And who can blame them? Consider the last two years. Following the embarrassment of last year's six special Legislative sessions, we were assured that 2002's regular session would be devoted to economic development. Instead, what fills the headlines out of Charleston for the past 60 days? News of new regulations on all-terrain vehicles. Stalemate regarding overweight trucks on our state's roads. Doctors continuing to struggle to find affordable insurance. College graduates continuing to leave the state (although now the taxpayers fully finance these educations before the students leave.)

Teachers are paid well below what they deserve. Out-of-state businesses continue to look elsewhere for expansion. In-state businesses continue to struggle to make ends meet, to pay taxes within an unfair system, to lay off their workers. Let it be shouted from the rooftops: the 2002 regular session was an abject failure. The Legislature fiddles while West Virginia burns.

What do we do as citizens of West Virginia? Should we ask the last person who leaves to turn off the lights?

The dirty little secret of our state government is this: two people control everything that moves in the Legislature-the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate. The fate of all legislation resides directly in only six others' hands: the majority leaders and the chairmen of each House's Finance and Judiciary committees. Since the Speaker and the President control committee chair appointments, they effectively control what moves or doesn't move. It matters not who the Governor is or who your legislator is; the only thing that matters is the Leadership --- and they have done nothing.

For 70 years, the ruling party has ensured that nothing which would make a real difference--in terms of economic growth--would move forward in this state. A lack of control threatens the ruling party and its leadership. The ruling party cannot control a vibrant free market economy thriving on opportunity and entrepreneurial activity and they, therefore, have stifled such a development at every turn. Simply put, that is why we rank at the bottom of the nation in the worst economic climate imaginable.

There is a better way. This year the people of our state have a golden opportunity to improve the economy due to a revitalized and energized Republican Party that will contest every seat in the Legislature. With a Republican Legislature, the debate will not focus on squeezing every dollar possible out of the public and out of business; the debate will focus on how to lower the cost of doing business in West Virginia. With a Republican Legislature the debate will be on how to empower the private sector to grow jobs.

What about the local Democrat officeholder who professes to hold Republican principles? That is a joke. Voters should challenge every Democrat lawmaker. Every one of them continues to re-elect the same "do-nothing" leadership. Challenge them to throw out the Speaker and the President who stop legislation vital to West Virginia's economic future. Your legislators must be held accountable for the leaders they have steadfastly supported.

For too long West Virginians have been victimized by a few politicians who do not answer to the citizens. Under Republican leadership, Legislators and their Leaders will listen and they will represent the citizens. West Virginia will experience true economic growth. Under Republican leadership, West Virginians will get lower taxes, witness accountability, and observe respect for the values West Virginians hold dear.

Mountaineers are always free -- free to seize the moment and make a change, free to take control of their destiny; free to once again create a land of opportunity. We are free to throw off that which is unworthy of us. We will do that this November.

Kris Warner is the West Virginia Republican Chairman


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