State Senator Craig Blair: Republicans lead economic turnaround (Daily Mail Opinion)

After 83 years of a Democrat majority and policies that devastated the West Virginia economy, our state is, for the first time in nearly a century, on a path to a brighter future.

Since winning the majority in the Legislature in 2014, Republican leadership has implemented pro-growth, fiscally sound policies that have led to an economic resurgence, which was unimaginable just a few years ago.

Despite that progress, West Virginia Democrats continue to traffic in the same stale and misleading scare tactics used so frequently by Barack Obama, Elizabeth Warren and Hillary Clinton.

Let’s take the example of the recent op-ed column by George Capel, the political director of the West Virginia Democratic Party. Capel’s piece is heavy on outrage and over-the-top rhetoric, but it strikes out when it comes to providing facts.

First, Capel claimed that every Republican voted against Senate Bill 267, which raised the salaries of public employees.

Senate Bill 267 was passed by the Senate with Republican support on Feb. 2, the House passed its own version on Feb. 13, which the Senate amended and passed on Feb. 20, again with Republican support. Governor Jim Justice signed it into law the next day. That is strike one for Capel.

Second, Capel alleged Republicans blocked the passage of Senate Bill 267 during the teachers strike. Capel is flat out wrong. Gov. Justice signed Senate Bill 267 on Feb. 21. The teacher strike began on Feb. 22. Therefore, all votes on that bill were over before the work stoppage, not during as Capel suggests. That is strike two for Capel.

Third, Capel writes that all Republicans voted against House Bill 4145. This is, once more, false. The bill was passed by the House, amended and passed by the Senate, passed out of conference, and signed by the governor.

That is strike three for Capel, who somehow ignores the fact that any bill passed through a Republican-held Legislature mathematically requires Republican votes.

But perhaps worse than Capel’s inability to correctly state facts, is his determination to engage in political boogeyman talk that is completely unhelpful to civil dialogue. That is what he did when he said that Republican leadership is “actively trying to find ways to hurt our people.”

The truth is the Republican leadership has put in place a strong, pro-growth agenda that is putting West Virginia back on the map, and its people back to work. The numbers speak for themselves.

From the first quarter of 2016 to the first quarter of 2017, West Virginia’s gross domestic product grew 6.5 percent, the highest in the nation. West Virginia continued this trend by ranking as one of the top states in gross domestic product growth each subsequent quarter in 2017. Much of this growth was due to coal production increasing by 31 percent from June 2016 to June 2017, as well as natural gas production being at a five-year high.

And the economic policies of the Republican-led Legislature are benefiting West Virginia’s working class. From June 2017 to June 2018, West Virginia added 6,800 nonfarm jobs and the civilian labor force grew by 8,000.

Further, the unemployment rate in West Virginia, which sat at 6.7 percent when Republicans took control of the Legislature in January 2015, has now dropped to 5.3 percent — the highest positive change in the unemployment rate in the United States.

But there’s more good news for the West Virginia worker — between the third quarters in 2016 and 2017, the per capita personal income rose by 3.4 percent, ranking number one in the country. This was followed up by even stronger 4.92 percent per capita income growth from the fourth quarter of 2016 to the fourth quarter of 2017.

The facts are clear — the Republican leadership in West Virginia has enacted strong, pro-growth policies that are resulting in economic growth and leading to more, higher paying work for West Virginians. And when the Republican-led Legislature significantly raised the pay of public employees, it did so with a balanced budget that included no new tax increases.

It certainly makes sense that this good governance and a historic economic turnaround led by Republicans would frustrate Democrat operatives like Capel, but using Obama-Clinton scare tactics and overheated rhetoric to mislead readers cannot change the truth — the Republican-led Legislature is leading the West Virginia comeback.

Senate Finance Chairman Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, represents the Fifteenth Senatorial District, which includes Morgan and Hampshire counties, and parts of Berkeley and Mineral counties. He was elected to the Senate in 2012 and formerly served as the Chairman of the Committee on Government Organization. He became the Senate Finance Chairman in August 2017.

Funerals for Sunday, February 16, 2020

Atkins, Linda - 3 p.m., Fidler & Frame Funeral Home, Belle.

Call, James - 2 p.m., Chapman Funeral Home, Hurricane.

Hankins, Sara - 1 p.m., McGhee-Handley Funeral Home, West Hamlin.

Hensley, Joshua - 2 p.m., Evans Funeral Home & Cremation Services, Chapmanville.

Jackson, Jeffrey - 6 p.m., Lantz Funeral Home, Buckeye.

Jobe, Joe - 2:30 p.m., Sunset Memorial Park Mausoleum Chapel, South Charleston.

Johnson, Freda - 2 p.m., Kanawha Valley Memorial Gardens, Glasgow.

Ratcliff, James - 3 p.m., Curry Funeral Home, Alum Creek.