West Virginians for Affordable Health Care Hosting Secretary Burwell on Tuesday, November 22

West Virginians for Affordable Health Care is hosting U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell on Tuesday, November 22, at 11 a.m. on the campus of the University of Charleston. Register here.

Secretary Burwell will talk with West Virginians who have benefitted from the Affordable Health Care Act (Obamacare). The event will be hosted in the Erma Byrd Art Gallery. Registration is required.

More than 170,000 West Virginians have enrolled in expanded Medicaid, a provision of the ACA. Additionally, over 35,000 residents purchased ACA-compliant plans last year on the state’s health insurance marketplace.

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In the News

WVCBP Executive Director Ted Boettner weighs in on West Virginia’s revenue sources in the State Journal. Read here.

“While state sales and income tax collections nationally are certainly being impacted by low inflation, weak wage growth and low energy prices, several other long-term factors are also impacting state tax collections,” Boettner said.

“These include major income tax cuts that some states have enacted, such as Kansas, growth in business tax incentives and rising income inequality. One big cause of declining sales tax revenues is that more of what families and businesses buy is tax-free, such as internet sales.”

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Michael E. Webber writes “The Coal Industry Isn’t Coming Back” in this New York Times opinion piece. Read here.

“Donald J. Trump made many important campaign promises on his way to victory. But saving coal is one promise he won’t be able to keep. Many in Appalachia and other coal-mining regions believe that President Obama’s supposed war on coal caused a steep decline in the industry’s fortunes.

“But coal’s struggles to compete are caused by cheap natural gas, cheap renewables, air-quality regulations that got their start in the George W. Bush administration and weaker-than-expected demand for coal in Asia.”

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Larissa MacFarquhar re-connects with Southern West Virginia residents in her “Learning Trump Won, In West Virginia” for The New Yorker. Read here.

“I spoke with Ojeda and others in Logan last summer about the election, because southern West Virginia was unusually enthusiastic about Trump, and not just for economic reasons.”

“Many there felt that Trump was the first candidate in a while to treat West Virginia as a valued part of working America, rather than as a place to send welfare checks. They saw that the élites who mocked Appalachia also mocked and despised Trump, and that made them like him even more.”

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WVCBP Staff Retreat

This week, the WVCBP staff enjoyed several days in beautiful Fayette County, West Virginia for its staff retreat.

The team kicked off the retreat with an adrenaline-inducing zip lining adventure in the New River Gorge area before focusing on up-coming projects and campaigns.

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During the second day of the retreat, WVCBP staff hosted a WV United meeting where about 25 coalition partners joined us in Fayetteville. WV United formed in 2004 and meets monthly.

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Reaction to the Election

Reggie Jones, who is the director of PRIDE Community Services in Logan, West Virginia, summed up the election best: “We’re suffering in this state, and I don’t see any end in sight.”

No matter who you voted for in the election, it is undeniably true that working families in West Virginia are struggling and have been for a very long time. And for far too long, our policy choices in West Virginia, and at the federal level, have put the interests of those on top ahead of everyone else. As former Supreme Court Justice David Souter said two years ago: “when problems are not addressed, people will not know who is responsible.”

This is why it is so important for us continue the fight. We must continue to push for policies that will build a stronger middle class and which lift us all up, despite our race, ethnicity, gender, religion, and sexual orientation.

It is difficult to tell what is going to happen to the people of West Virginia and across the nation in the future. But one thing is for sure, we are committed to listen more, work harder, and never give up on our vision for building a prosperous West Virginia where everyone has a meaningful and equitable opportunity to thrive.

Onward and upward,

Ted Boettner
WVCBP Executive Director

In the News

This week, Ted joined WV Public Broadcasting’s Ashton Marra to talk about the results of the governor’s race along with conservative columnist Laurie Lin of WVPB’s The Front Porch. Listen here.

Ted also had this to say in the Charleston Gazette-Mail about the likelihood of a rebound in the state’s coal industry: it is likely to continue to decline, unless Trump or the state Legislature decide to ban hydraulic fracturing for natural gas or “crack down on renewable energy.” Read the full article here.

Why Business Tax Cuts Don’t Work

Taxes don’t play a major role when business leaders decide where to locate and expand their companies. And cutting taxes has not brought jobs to West Virginia. In fact, we have fewer private-sector jobs in the state now than we did in 2007, before business taxes were cut by hundreds of millions of dollars.

This was the topic of this week’s Lunch and Learn at the Covenant House. View Ted’s full presentation here.

Welcome, Caitlin!

This week the WVCBP welcomed Caitlin Cook, our first full-time Communications Director. Caitlin is a native of Charleston and brings business and public outreach experience to her role. She holds a B. A. in Journalism and a B. A. in Philosophy from Youngstown State University. Caitlin will work to foster an environment of increased understanding and collaboration on budget and economic issues among citizens, partners and legislators through strategic communications.

Recognizing the Importance of Medicaid Coverage

On November 2, Marion County passed a resolution in support of the West Virginia Medicaid program after hearing about the number of Marion County children, adults, people with disabilities, and lower-income seniors who rely on Medicaid health insurance coverage.

In Marion County there are 14,444 people, or 26% of the county population, who were enrolled in Medicaid in July 2015. County enrollment varies from 48% in McDowell to 15% in Monongalia County.

The presentation, by Lisa Diehl of West Virginians for Affordable Health Care (WVAHC), included data on the new dollars that came into the county through Medicaid. This flow of money generates new jobs in the health-care sector, and has a positive ripple effect creating even more jobs across all other economic sectors.

For a copy of the resolution or to have a speaker from WVAHC come to a meeting in your community, contact Kathleen Stoll.

Growing the Middle Class Will Grow the Economy

For too long, policymakers in West Virginia have relied on a trickle-down approach to state economic policy that emphasizes putting more money in the hands of the wealthy and large corporations. Instead of pushing money upwards in the hope it will trickle down, policymakers should focus on expanding the middle class – who are the real job creators.

Read Ted’s complete op-ed in the Charleston Gazette-Mail.

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Lunch and Learn This Wednesday

Lunch and Learn – November 9:
Business Tax Cuts Haven’t Delivered Jobs for West Virginia

Business tax cuts have not kept their promise of bringing jobs to West Virginia. Why? Because state and local taxes don’t play a major role when business leaders decide where to locate and expand their companies. Tax cuts do, however, damage our ability to maintain the building blocks of shared prosperity like adequately funded schools and good roads.

To find out more, please join us at the Covenant House on November 9 starting at 11:30 AM. Bring your own lunch and join in on this important conversation!

More on Facebook here.


Revenue Fails to Meet Projections Again Last Month

This week the West Virginia Department of Revenue announced that, in October, the state again brought in less money than projected. While personal income tax collections exceeded estimates, sales and use and corporate income taxes were down $13 million and $5 million respectively.

This does not bode well for next year’s budget with the state’s General Revenue Fund already down over $87 million just four months into the fiscal year. Read more in Ted’s blog post.

Social Security Keeps Seniors Out of Poverty

Social Security remains an important anti-poverty tool, especially in West Virginia. About 40,000 senior citizens in the state live in poverty. Without Social Security, that number would jump to about 171,000.

Here’s more in Sean’s blog post and in a report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Equal Justice Under the Law

The next Race Matters in West Virginia event is happening next Friday in Lewisburg!

What: See Race Through a New Lens of Understanding

When: Friday, November 11 from 9:00 AM – 3:30 PM

Where: Kyle and Ann Fort Arts and Sciences Building, New River Community and Technical College

Who: Keynote speech by Reverend Matthew Watts; panel discussions about race, law enforcement, and the criminal justice system, presentations on alternative programs.

Cost: $15. Scholarships available. Register here.

Revenues at Nine-Year Low So Far

Today, the state budget office released revenue collections for October which were $6.3 million below estimates.  While personal income tax collections where $14 million above expectations, sales and use and corporate income taxes were down $13 million and $5 million, respectively. So far, the state’s General Revenue Fund is down $87.4 million over the first four months of fiscal year 2017.

As the chart below reveals, the state’s four-month revenue collections are lower in Fiscal Year 2017 than they were nine years ago (FY 2008) before the Great Recession hit the state’s economy. On top of the state’s weak economy – which is largely driven by declining coal prices and production, and low natural gas prices – major tax cuts enacted between FY 2008 and FY 2016 are also a driving factor in the state’s weak revenue collections. Adjusting for inflation, four-month revenue collections in 2016 are about where they were 2002, 14 years ago.

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While October’s revenue collections didn’t drop as far as they did in July, August, and September, it’s likely that Governor Tomblin and/or the next governor will have to address the budget shortfalls before the legislature convenes in February 2017.

The drop in revenue collections for the current fiscal year could also mean that the projected gap for next year (FY 2018) – which is currently between $300 to $400 million – could grow larger. Since the state has already made major cuts to the state’s budget over the last several years, policymakers will have to enact revenue enhancements if they want to avoid draconian cuts and get their fiscal house in order.