WV Dems to focus on small businesses, infrastructure in 2020


CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia Democrats on Thursday said their 2020 legislative platform will focus on education, infrastructure, small businesses and social services.

Democrats in the GOP-led statehouse detailed their “West Virginians First” agenda at a press conference marking the second day of the state’s 60-day legislative session.

“We would like at this time to put the good people of West Virginia first, ahead of corporations and millionaires,” said Senate Minority Leader Roman Prezioso.

They floated ideas such as creating tax credit programs for small business, expanding vocational education, repairing the state’s water infrastructure and funding addiction treatment with a surcharge on opioids.

Their plan was announced a day after Republican Gov. Jim Justice gave his annual State of the State address, which was panned by Democrats who said the governor gave a misleading view of state finances.

“When I hear the governor talk about how rosy the state’s economic performances have been, as well as the Republican majority, I think about the old fable about the emperor with no clothes,” said Del. Tim Miley, minority leader in the House of Delegates.

Republican leaders have said they are pushing this session for the elimination of a tax on manufacturing machinery and equipment, an often debated proposal. Justice is backing the measure, saying Wednesday that the tax is “holding us back,” while noting that counties and school boards could lose money if the tax is repealed.

“We have to be careful and we got to be smart,” said Justice. “But I don’t want there to be anyone to doubt that I would like it gone.”

The West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy says eliminating the tax on business machinery and equipment would result in a loss of $135 million.