2017-06-28 / Opinions

That future looks familiar

West Virginia lawmakers did make sure the state government will keep its doors open past June 30 when they passed a budget recently. Governor Justice opted to let it stand, with the threat of a shutdown looming large. Altogether, the special budget session was, to your average Mountaineer, a big show of wastefulness.

The session cost around $600,000 in extra pay and expenses for lawmakers and staff. That’s roughly what the budget cut out of the governor’s budget to support arts grants, fairs and festivals in the state next year.

Those cuts happened literally at the moment that the Division of Tourism asked state residents to help them brand West Virginia as #AlmostHeaven to the outside world.

Guess how a lot of people from outside the state find out about West Virginia, and decide to move here? Through our music, heritage and arts festivals. Guess who benefits from our fairs and festivals? Little towns like ours, all over West Virginia.

The disconnect between Main Street, West Virginia and the halls of the Capitol would be comical, if it didn’t hurt our prospects for the future so much.

Over and over again, state elected officials said they were serious about getting West Virginia ready for a brighter future. A future of new ideas, young energy, diverse businesses, they said. And then they cut funding to the state’s higher education institutions -- places that prepare our young people to innovate, create businesses, discover new ideas.

The only reasonable conclusion to make is that the lawmakers who had a political majority in both the House of Delegates and State Senate don’t have a clear vision for what West Virginia should look like in 2020 or 2030. If they had, there was little to stop them from putting it into motion. Instead, the future looks a lot like the state we’ve known for the last decade. And that’s not a vision that will inspire anyone to stay, much less to gamble on bringing their great new idea here.

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