Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:
Bluefield (West Virginia) Daily Telegraph on legalizing fireworks:
West Virginia residents honor a long-standing tradition every year when the Fourth of July approaches. They journey into neighboring Ohio, head down Interstate 77 to the Carolinas or travel to Tennessee so they can buy the dazzling part of many Independence Day celebrations — big, bright exploding fireworks.
These staples of Fourth of July celebrations are currently illegal in West Virginia. Firecrackers and skyrockets are prohibited. People who crave fireworks for their celebrations have to circumvent the law by going across state lines to places where they can spend their money on fireworks. The only fireworks legally available to West Virginia and Virginia residents are fireworks fountains and sparklers, so people wanting more bang for their bucks head south. Money that could have been spent locally ends up elsewhere.
Sen. Daniel Hall, D-Wyoming, submitted a bill during West Virginia's last legislative session that would have allowed the state's citizens to buy and use fireworks such as Roman candles, rockets, firecrackers, shells and cakes. Other legislators have introduced similar bills during past sessions, and Hall's bill is just as good an idea. The bill did not pass this year, but Hall hopes to try again when the next session arrives.
West Virginia's residents have been buying and using fireworks for years, and laws prohibiting their use have not been working. The sight and sound of exploding fireworks continues well after the Fourth of July.
Clifford Rotz, a retired chemical engineer who helped Hall draft the proposed legislation, has maintained that the use of fireworks by individuals has become increasingly safer over the years, and he maintains that national statistics bear this out.
There is no reason why responsible adults cannot be trusted with fireworks.
Fireworks should be legal in West Virginia if safety measures are taken. A fireworks safety fee could be used to help fund the state's fire departments and pay for the State Fire Marshal Office's enforcement efforts. If the taxes stay at a rate that makes West Virginia's fireworks competitive with those sold in neighboring states, fireworks users will not feel that they must travel hundreds of miles from home for their supplies. This will mean more money staying in the state's economy.
Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail on tax structure:
Today is July 1, the start of a new fiscal year for many states, including ours. And it's a reminder that West Virginia cannot be complacent when it comes to making itself an attractive place in which to do business.
As Daily Mail Capitol Bureau Chief Dave Boucher reports today, there are no significant tax changes to the state's structure. But some other states are changing their tax structures and tax rates today.
It goes to show that the competition among states to create an environment that brings quality jobs from outside and encourages growth from within is never ending.
"Indiana and Rhode Island businesses will see a drop in their corporate tax rates on July 1," wrote the Pew Charitable Trusts. "Maryland is beefing up tax credits related to cybersecurity, biotechnology and research and development to encourage companies to relocate to the state."
While a few fees and certain taxes will go up, the trend has been to use corporate tax cuts to get the economy moving, said Brian Sigritz of the National Association of State Budget Officers, in the Pew report.
Sigritz said 2010 saw a lot of states increasing fees and taxes to bring revenues in after the recession hit in 2008. That trend has now reversed. "We've definitely seen a movement to try to reduce taxes and fees and encourage job growth."
West Virginia has seen improvements in its business image of late.
West Virginia still has plenty of room for improvement. "The tax code is one of the few things businesses care about when they're looking for new places to invest," Tax Foundation economist Scott Drenkard told Pew.
West Virginia policymakers must remain ever vigilant to get ahead and stay ahead of the competition for the state to be consistently attractive to job creators.
The Register-Herald, Bleckley, South Carolina, on diversifying economy:
Last week, the federal government announced the awarding of twin grants worth more than $6 million to WorkForce West Virginia to be used to retrain unemployed state workers and help direct them into new jobs.
The same day we saw why these grants, and the efforts by WorkForce West Virginia, are so important.
The Pinnacle coal mine in Wyoming County announced that, if the market for metallurgical coal doesn't improve in the next few weeks, nearly 400 miners would receive temporary layoffs of up to six months until that occurs.
Cliffs Natural Resources Inc. issued a WARN (Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notice) Wednesday with the United Mine Workers and the state of West Virginia to announce its "tentative plan to temporarily idle" the mine "due to deteriorating conditions in the metallurgical coal market."
That mine produced 2.8 million tons of metallurgical coal in 2013. The mine could be idled up to six months, The Associated Press said.
In Boone County, Patriot Coal laid off 75 workers at two mining complexes.
And to the south, in Virginia, layoffs were announced at another mine there.
From 2010 to 2014, some 425 million tons of coal were exported from the United States, and 60 percent of that was metallurgical coal bound for steel manufacturers overseas, reports uscoalexports.org.
We hope that the Pinnacle layoffs, if they do indeed occur, will be short, and that our overseas markets for steel-producing coal recover.
But the overall trend for coal is downward.
Which makes grants like those to WorkForce West Virginia so important.
Just as we continue to work hard to diversify our economy in southern West Virginia, coal miners and other workers need to be given the chance at training to diversify their job skills as well.
These grants are a good step in that direction.