Budget Beat – August 29, 2014

Decline of Coal in National Headlines

This week the Washington Post featured two articles on the downturn of West Virginia’s coal economy. With 10,000 miners losing their jobs in southern West Virginia and eastern Kentucky in the past two-and-a-half years, and the surge in national gas production, the coal industry’s most recent bust might be longer lasting, if not permanent. Read more here. The question remains, what will policymakers do to prepare West Virginia for an economic transition?

With its high rate of poverty, could it be that West Virginia suffers from a “resource curse”? It’s an economic theory that areas rich in natural resources can have a population that suffers economic struggles, an idea that seems to describe southern West Virginia. Read more.

Last Chance to Register

Registration for The Our Children Our Future Policy Symposium closes on September 2 so if you have not yet reserved your spot, today is the day! The event continues to grow as the date nears, with more speakers, including several candidates for the event on Tuesday night, September 9.

Take a minute and register today so your space is reserved!

Our Children Our Future with Children Silhouette
Happy Labor Day!

“My grandfather once told me there were two kinds of people: those who do the work and those who take the credit. He told me to be in the first group; there was much less competition.” Indira Gandhi

“Silence never won rights. They are not handed down from above; they are forced by pressures from below.” Roger Baldwin

Budget Beat – August 22, 2014

Welcome to Erin Snyder!

The WVCBP welcomed Erin Snyder this week as our new Health Policy Analyst. Erin is a graduate of West Virginia State University has a J.D. from Charlotte School of Law, where she focused on health law. She most recently has worked with Families USA on national health policies and will work on our Paid Sick Days campaign and other health policy issues. You can contact Erin via email or Twitter @WVCBPErinSnyder. 

Erin Synder headshot

Another Addition to the WVCBP Family

This week WVCBP Executive Director Ted Boettner and Rebecca Roth welcomed their second child, Sid Boettner, into the world. Congratulations to them and Sid’s big sister, Lucy!

 Ted Lucy and Sid 8.20.14 Ted Rebecca and Sid

 

Have You Registered Yet?

The Our Children Our Future Policy Symposium is right around the corner and registration is filling up quickly. We are excited about the variety of break-out sessions available for people to attend. Take a minute and register today so your space is reserved!
Our Children Our Future with Children Silhouette

What’s the Future of Southern West Virginia’s Coal Mining Jobs?

West Virginia Public Broadcasting ran this interesting piece on the future of southern West Virginia’s coal economy. It featured a WVCBP analysis of the loss of coal jobs in Boone County where, in the last two years, one-fifth of the labor force has lost a coal mining job.

The Five Biggest Lies About Obamacare

What are the impacts of the Affordable Care Act now that the law has been implemented? Here’s a good look back at the past year, with a nod to research from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.

Budget Beat – August 15, 2014

Register Today to Hold Your Seat at Next Month’s Policy Symposium!

Registration is open for next month’s Our Children Our Future Policy Symposium at the state Capitol in Charleston. Day #1 is September 9 the the Culture Center with a wide variety of policy sessions. On Day #2 we present those policy ideas to legislators at an interim meeting of the Joint Select Committee on Children and Families. Also on Day #2 we will gather in the House Chamber to learn how to hold a Fall Forum in your community.

But we need you to register today!

Our Children Our Future with Children Silhouette

Another Great September Event: Strengthening Families in West Virginia Conference

Next month come out to learn more about empowering fathers and families for the future at KISRA’s Strengthening Families Conference on September 25 from 8:00AM – 4:30 PM at the Charleston Marriott. Read the conference schedule here.

Layoffs Don’t Necessarily Mean Fewer Jobs

With newspaper headlines dominated by announcements of mine closures and layoffs, it’s important to distinguish between layoff and actual employment loss. Since 2009, West Virginia has averaged about 2,295 coal job separations per quarter, meaning every three months 2,295 coal miners are either laid off, retire, quit or are fired. But during that same time period, West Virginia’s coal industry averaged 2,292 hires per quarter.

Interesting note: southern West Virginia is outpaced by 10 other regions in terms of coal productivity, most notably northern West Virginia. Read much more in Sean’s blog post.

 productivity

Happy Birthday, Medicare!

As Medicare celebrates its 49th birthday, there is good news about the program’s future as the growth of health care costs slows. Medicare covers 52 million people in the United States and provides benefits to one in five West Virginians. Without it, even more West Virginians would be living in poverty. Read more here.

West Virginia Wives Earning the Majority of Household Income

A new study out last week shows that West Virginia has the largest percentage of wives earning the majority of their households’ incomes. Whether it’s the recession, a loss of jobs traditionally held by men, or other factors, West Virginia wives are bringing in over half of their families’ incomes, second only to Florida. Read more in the Charleston Gazette and Clarksburg Exponent-Telegram.

When is a Coal Layoff a Coal Job Loss?

West Virginia’s coal-mining families were given a scare last month when Alpha Natural Resources issued a WARN notice, notifying over 1,100 employees at 11 mining operations of potential layoffs. While those layoffs are projected to take place by October, don’t expect the number of coal jobs to fall by 1,100 that month. That’s because layoffs and job losses are measuring two separate things.

Layoffs and mine closures are a fact of life in a boom and bust industry like coal, but so are recalls and hires. While market conditions may make some older mines with thinner seams uneconomical to operate, others that promise more productivity are opened up. And as miners are laid off at some mines, miners are hired at others. For example, while Alpha closes mines and lays off miners, Keystone Industries is fighting to start a new mine adjacent to Kanawha State Forest near Charleston, WV. 

So 1,100 layoffs doesn’t necessarily mean that there will be 1,100 fewer coal jobs in the state. Since 2009, West Virginia has averaged about 2,295 coal job separations per quarter, meaning every three months 2,295 coal miners are either laid off, retire, quit or are fired.  But during that same time period, West Virginia’s coal industry averaged 2,292 hires per quarter. 

coal hires

The nature of the industry isn’t just one of high turnover, but of miners transitioning from older, less productive mines to newer more profitable mines, even as they’re laid off in between. 

That’s not to say that the coal industry isn’t facing some real problems. Separations have begun to outpace hires in recent quarters, and, as of the end of 2013-Q2, total coal mining employment was down 1,725 from 2009-Q1 (but still 2,629 jobs above its recent low in 2009-Q4). Competition from natural gas isn’t going away anytime soon, and while proposed EPA regulations aren’t the primary source of  West Virginia’s coal problems, they aren’t helping either. Plus, those more productive mines are more and more likely to be found outside of West Virginia. Of the top 10 coal producing states, southern West Virginia has the second lowest level of productivity.

productivity

Nevertheless, its important to make a distinction between layoffs and actual employment loss in an industry, particularly one structured like coal.

Budget Beat – August 8, 2014

Greater Fiscal Responsibility is Possible

West Virginia should make improvements to the way it estimates revenues in order to create a more fiscally responsible budget, according to a new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

In the report’s evaluation of how states come up with a revenue estimate for the annual budget, West Virginia scored only a two on a scale of zero to five due to its failure to employ basic best practices that create strong, reliable revenue estimates to guide state spending.

PLS-00010156-001West Virginia’s process for estimating revenues is tilted too far toward the Executive Branch. Unlike many states, the West Virginia legislature does not work with the executive branch to produce a consensus forecast. When one branch is excluded from this process key decision makers are more likely to dismiss or dispute the revenue estimates.

More transparency would go a long way to reforming this process. Creating of an independent Legislative Fiscal Office would provide nonpartisan oversight of the state’s budget and create greater balance in the decision-making process. This office could also provide more accurate fiscal notes and estimates of the costs of proposed legislation.

Have You Registered for Next Month’s Policy Symposium?

Want to learn more about energy-efficient, affordable housing? Do you want to see West Virginia reform its juvenile justice system? There’s something of interest for everyone at the Our Children Our Future Policy Symposium taking place at the state Capitol on September 9 and 10. A full list of sessions is available here.

Register today!

For a great recap on why West Virginia is long past due bringing needed reforms to how it incarcerates its young people, read today’s oped in the Charleston Gazette by former WVCBP board member Rick Wilson.

capitol domeMore on Coal’s Future

Last week’s headlines were dominated by reactions to new EPA regulations and their potential impact to coal production and employment. Today’s Charleston Gazette editorial page calls for proactive leadership on helping southern West Virginia as coal production sharply declines. WVCBP Executive Director Ted Boettner’s (AKA Charleston strategist) ideas of creating a G.I. Bill for displaced coal miners and putting miners to work reclaiming abandoned mine sites are part of the Gazette’s recommendations for transition.

Support an Increase to the Tobacco Tax

West Virginia taxes cigarettes at a rate of just 55-cents a pack, well below the national average. Increasing the tobacco tax would cut smoking rates, improve health, reduce medical costs, and stabilize the state budget. Tell Governor Tomblin that you support an increase to the tobacco tax with this quick action.

Budget Beat – August 1, 2014

Ways to Help West Virginia’s Working Families

Couldn’t make it to last month’s policy workshops? Find out more about two of our policy priorities on our website where we’ve posted our presentations from the Clarksburg and Hurricane events.

Paid Sick Days
Many low-wage workers have to choose between going to work when they are sick or losing a day’s pay. Keeping Families Healthy: West Virginia Earned Sick Days and Family Medical Leave explains how providing paid days off benefits both employees and employers. The WVCBP, WV FREE and SEIU will take this issue to next month’s Policy Symposium.

VERA
Another workplace benefit is Voluntary Employee Retirement Accounts (VERA). Helping employers provide a retirement plan for their employees would help many West Virginia workers save for the future. Read more in Stemming the Retirement Crisis.

Learn more about these policy ideas and many more at the 2014 Policy Symposium on September 9 and 10. Registration is now open. The Our Children Our Future Policy Workshops and Symposium is supported by local and regional sponsorships, the West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families Coalition, the West Virginia Community HUB and the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy.

Get to Know Dr. Michelle Foster, KISRA CEO and WVCBP Board Member

WVCBP board member Dr. Michelle Foster was featured in this week’s Innerviews in the Charleston Gazette. We are proud to have Michelle on our board and are in awe over all the great work she is doing with KISRA.

Thanks, Michelle!

Michelle's Bio Photo

WVCBP in the News

WVCBP Executive Director Ted Boettner provided insight on two issues making the headlines this week. Today’s front page of the Charleston Gazette was all about what new EPA regulations would mean for the state’s coal industry. Ted and others pointed out that focusing solely on these regulations denies the broader reality of why coal is declining in southern West Virginia.

Bargain stores are successful in West Virginia and provide a place for low-income families to make their dollar go farther. Ted explains in this week’s Charleston Gazette that cheap choices are not always healthy ones for poor families struggling to make ends meet.

Moving Forward

Yesterday was our last day with WVCBP Health Policy Analyst Brandon Merritt and Outreach Coordinator Alyson Clements. Brandon will start medical school very soon and Alyson has moved to Washington DC to join her husband who began working there this spring. Best luck to them both! They will be missed!

Brandon going away party