Natalie Tennant: Serving businesses and voters with integrity (Opinion)

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During this health and economic crisis of COVID-19, West Virginia businesses need an ally in state government who has successfully run a small business and understands the concerns and struggles of small-business owners. This is one of the reasons why I’m running for secretary of state.

In my eight years as secretary of state, I ran the office with the same fiscal responsibility and innovation we expect from our small businesses. I streamlined the office so it was easier to start a business. And I worked to find ways to save businesses money by cutting fees.

Through my innovative programs and fiscal discipline, I cut costs within the Secretary of State’s Office, saved money and returned more than $3 million dollars to taxpayers.

As businesses face the July 1 deadline to file their annual reports, there is a clear difference between how I treated the businesses of our state then and how they are treated now. When I took office in 2009, the secretary of state was charging a transaction fee every time a business filed reports online. This is a blatant example of nickel-and-diming our businesses. I removed the fee, which costs businesses more than $100,000.

For six years, businesses didn’t have to pay the fee. I was able to remove it because I ran an office focused on serving the public and reducing costs. I wanted to help our businesses grow. Once I left office, the fee was put back on them. The secretary of state should be focused on helping businesses and not looking for ways to take advantage of them.

I’m proud of my accomplishments and record. But here’s what I’ll do next: Once again, I’ll remove the fee for our businesses, saving hundreds of thousands of dollars across the Mountain State. Also, I’ll implement even more innovative practices — like the One Stop Business Shop I started — to help our businesses.

I worked with Republicans and Democrats in 2015 to pass legislation to make it easier to start a business. We brought many state agencies, such as the Tax Department, Labor Department and WorkForce West Virginia together so a business owner does not have to run all over the place to various agencies to file paperwork and get started.

I also made it easier for our veterans returning after active duty to start a business. Again, working with Republicans and Democrats, I waived the fee for veterans to start a business and waived the annual report fee for the first four years.

It is so important to work across party lines for the betterment of our state. I have done it before, and I’ll do it again.

I will implement automated voter registration. It was passed by Republicans and Democrats four years ago. The current secretary of state continues to delay it, even though the technology exists to make it a success today. West Virginians are the ones losing out, because it’s more efficient and it would benefit all eligible voters, no matter their party affiliation.

I have a reputation for being an innovator, which is why I pushed for online voter registration. Thank goodness we implemented that many years ago. It’s what we’re using now, as we rely so much on technology and online services.

It’s what I’ll do next. I’ll be brave, so West Virginia can be bold.

Just as you do, I want to see a West Virginia that welcomes businesses and diversity, respects workers, embraces innovation and allows West Virginians to grow in a place where you can take care of your family, have a good-paying job and have a great quality of life. All of this in a partnership with elected officials who care about you.

It will take courage, vision and cooperation. I know we can do this, West Virginia. I believe in you.

Natalie Tennant served as West Virginia secretary of state from 2009-17 and

is seeking the post again

in the November election.

Funerals for Sunday, July 5, 2020

Canterbury, Kimberly - 2 p.m., Handley Funeral Home, Danville.

Green, Della - 2 p.m., Evans Funeral Home, Chapmanville.

Miller, Brinley - 2 p.m., Hafer Funeral Home, Elkview.

Rogers, Robert - 2 p.m., Wallace Funeral Home, Milton.

Starkey, Roger - 2 p.m., Clover Cemetery, Clover.