West Virginia Eyes Tax Reform

This Gazette-Mail piece reports on a new West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy issue brief on what eliminating the state’s income tax would mean for West Virginia.

The brief  shows a reduction or elimination of the state’s income tax is not a surefire way to generate economic growth and the change in tax structure erodes state revenue for important services.

Lawmakers should consider tax reform that would address our budget deficit, is based on the ability to pay, and enact an Earned Income Tax Credit to help hardworking West Virginians provide their families a secure future.

In The News
Brad McElhinny dives into the tax debate in this MetroNews piece. Last week, Senate Bill 335 was introduced, which would eliminate the state’s personal and corporate tax and the sales tax, and replace it with a general consumption tax.

West Virginia Executive Director Ted Boettner presented to the Senate Select Committee on Tax Reform on how a shift from income and sales tax to a general consumption tax would benefit the wealthy and destabilize the state’s revenue system. For more on the bill, see Boettner’s post.

Around the same time Boettner was presenting in Charleston, Republican lawmakers in Kansas voted to roll back income tax cuts enacted in 2012 that led to $700 million in reduced revenue, several rounds of cuts to service such as education, and the state’s credit rating being lowered three times.

The WVCBP along with the West Virginia Council of Churches, the Partnership of African American Churches, and the Covenant House hosted a press conference to bring attention to possible changes to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The CFPB has returned $11.8 billion to American consumers ripped off by banks and other financial institutions and industries such as payday lenders and debt collectors. Senators Capito and Manchin should not allow special interest groups to dismantle the bureau without fighting to protect the bureau that protects West Virginians.

This piece by Center on Budget and Policy Senior Fellow Paul Van de Water takes a look at health-care costs.

The latest projections from the Congressional Budget Office estimate federal health spending – including the costs of the Affordable Care Act – including the costs of the Affordable Care Act, which has enabled 20 million Americans to get coverage – will be less than what it had been projected to be in 2010 without the ACA.

Upcoming Events
The 4th Annual WVCBP Budget Breakfast is this Thursday. With a new governor and new budget, join us to find out what is in store. Register today.

Panelists include:
– Senate Finance Committee Chair Mike Hall
– Nick Casey, Chief of Staff for Governor Jim Justice
– Delegate Matt Rohrbach

Sponsorships are available and come with event tickets.

Join West Virginia Citizens Action Group, West Virginians for Affordable Health Care, and others as West Virginians come together to rally for answers! All across the country, elected officials are holding town hall meetings with their constituents to discuss their concerns about repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA), but our congressional delegation has not stepped up to do so here in West Virginia.

It’s time our congressional representatives speak with their constitutes about the many concerns surrounding repealing the ACA. Help us on February 25th make it loud and clear: We want our Congresswoman and Congressmen to represent and listen to us! We demand town halls to express our concerns and get answers to our questions. The event will be held at the West Virginia Culture Center from 2:30 – 3:30 pm.

 

 

Affordable Care Act Repeal Threatens Health Coverage and Economic Hardship in West Virginia

A new West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy report shows the far-reaching effects of an ACA repeal in the Mountain State. Read.

The report shows West Virginia will be one of the most heavily impacted states by an ACA repeal. West Virginia will lose an estimated $349 million over five years in state and local taxes as a result of reduced economic activity generated by the ACA and the state’s budget crisis could worsen if ACA provisions that provide direct savings to the state are repealed among other negative impacts.

The WVCBP believes Congress and the President should build on the progress that has been made through the ACA. Any actions taken should carefully consider the impact they have on the number of uninsured and on health-care costs.

This WVCBP blog takes a look at a potential approach — the Patient Freedom Act of 2017 — to replace the Affordable Care Act. Read.

Based on what is known, the proposal shifts major decisions about how to respond to a repeal of the Affordable Care Act. At the same time, states will have less federal dollars to help subsidize the cost of health insurance and preserve gains made under the ACA.

Ultimately, the proposal leaves a variety of important questions unanswered.

In the News
This Bluefield Daily Telegraph story takes us to the nation’s capital city where U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-W.Va.) is fighting for more support to help out-of-work coal miners. Read.

The bill — Assisting America’s Dislocated Miners Act — if successful would establish the Dislocated Miners Assistance Program under the U.S. Department of Labor. The move would also provide $20 million per-year over five years to fund the program.

The WVCBP welcomes the effort by Congressman Jenkins and believes it could help diversify West Virginia’s economy.



Governor Jim Justice told a group of lawmakers and business owners the state’s budget gap is expected to reach $700 million in FY 2019. Read.

Justice went on to tell the Register-Herald that many of the “low-hanging fruit” have already been taken and further dips into the state’s Rainy Day Fund would be disastrous for the state’s bond rating.

The WVCBP looks forward to the new administration working with legislators to come up with real budget solutions that do not negatively impact West Virginians and the vital services they use daily.


Upcoming Events

Register for the WVCBP’s upcoming Budget Breakfast by Tuesday, January 31 to enjoy an early bird discount rate. The event slated for Feb. 23 will feature remarks by the Governor’s Chief of Staff Nick Casey and Senator Mike Hall. Register here.


Protect West Virginia will host a Budget Boot Camp on Wednesday, February 1, 2017 at the Girl Scout Black Diamond Council building in Charleston.

Citizens are welcomed to join Protect West Virginia, Our Children Our Future, West Virginia Development Hub, and others to discuss the state’s on-going budget woes, how it impacts their daily lives, and how to take action from there to Protect West Virginia. More info on the event may be found here.


What We Are Reading…

– If you don’t think progressives and conservatives can find ways to work together to reduce income inequality, check out these eight market-oriented policy proposals that our friend Dean Baker published for the conservative American Enterprise Institute.

– And if you don’t think there is hope for Appalachia in the Trump-era, think again says former coal-miner Nick Mullins in this piece from the Huffington Post.

– If you are interested in economics and are looking for a place to study, discover, participate, and orient yourself in pluralist economics go to this new interactive website called Exploring Economics. Listen to Mariana Mazzucato give a Ted Talk about how government plays an important and large role as an investor and innovator.

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.

West Virginia A Leader in Health Care for Children

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A report out this week shows that more U.S. children have health care coverage than ever. The numbers are especially good in West Virginia with less than 3 percent of the state’s children lacking health insurance. WVCBP President Renate Pore says that’s the lowest rate the state has ever had, thanks to the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and the Affordable Care Act (AKA Obamacare).

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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!

A Real Living Wage

West Virginia is one several states to raise its minimum wage above the federal level. According to a new report, however, the bump to $8.75 an hour is not a living wage for a single person, especially one who has student loan debt. According to “Waiting for the Payoff: How Low Wages and Student Debt Keep Prosperity Out of Reach”, the state minimum wage would need to be at least $15.00/hour for a single adult to pay for basic expenses, and $16.38/hour if that person had student loan debt.

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Equal Justice Under the Law
The next Race Matters in West Virginia event is happening soon 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: $10 if you register by November 1, $15 after November 1. Scholarships available.

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Closing a $300 to $400 Million Budget Shortfall

Legislators solved last year’s budget crisis primarily with one-time fixes like money from the Rainy Day Fund. While they did raise the tobacco tax, that was not enough to permanently fix the problem. With revenues continuing to come in below projections, it’s likely to be a déjà vu budget situation during the 2017 Legislative Session.

In the last two issues of Budget Beat we’ve presented recommendations on how to fill the budget gap. But how did we get into this annual situation? Here’s the explanation from WVCBP staff in this week’s Clarksburg Exponent-Telegram on the path policymakers have taken to create year after year of budget shortfalls.

With another large budget gap to fill, here are the price tags on some of the choices that legislators might consider if additional revenue is not raised.

Shout Out to WVU’s (and WVCBP’s) Karen Kunz

Immediate Past WVCBP Vice President Karen Kunz, Associate Professor at West Virginia University, led the national conversation on infrastructure investment recently on National Public Radio’s Marketplace.

With the eye-catching title “Presidential Candidates at Least Agree on One Thing,” the piece cited the growing need, and price tag, to maintain the nation’s vital roads and highways.


Voter Guide Available for West Virginia Election

Our colleagues at the West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families Coalition have released a comprehensive voter guide to help West Virginians make choices before heading to the polls on November 8 (or sooner with early voting).

The guide is a compilation of answers to a non-partisan questionnaire. Sign up here to receive a copy and find out how candidates stand on the issues that are important to you like school funding, higher education, and substance abuse.

For more on the Our Children Our Future campaign, check out this video.
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Hearts, Minds and Futures

In Martinsburg on Tuesday, October 25 from 5:30pm to 7:30pm in the HSC Auditorium at WVU-Martinsburg.

Check Out Our WV Budget at a Glance – Invite Us to Present to Your Group!

Last week it was WV Taxes at a Glance, this week we unveil WV Budget at a Glance. We hope these two easy-to-read mini reports help guide you through the complicated process that is the West Virginia state budget.

Want an in-person discussion so you can learn more about West Virginia’s budget process? Give us a call and we’ll do a presentation for your organization, civic group or club. Contact Tara for more information.

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Preparing for the Next Budget Crisis

As mentioned above and in previous editions of Budget Beat, WVCBP staff is making presentations across the state to talk about the continuing budget gap and recommendations on how to fill it.

Read more about our ideas to close the $300-400 million shortfall for next year in this week’s Inter-Mountain. Or listen to them here.


Why is West Virginia So Poor?

At this week’s Lunch and Learn, Rick Wilson from the American Friends Service Committee and WVCBP Senior Policy Analyst Sean O’Leary gave a preview of the upcoming 2015 State of Working West Virginia report.

Their presentation gave a great historical overview explaining how West Virginia became one of the nation’s poorest states and why it remains so.

Thanks so much to the West Virginia Covenant House for hosting Lunch and Learn on the second Wednesday of every month!

 

Medicaid By the Numbers

On October 3, Renate Pore, WVCBP board president, and Kathleen Stoll, WVCBP health policy analyst, made a presentation at the West Virginia Association of County Officials (WVACO) Annual board meeting highlighting the positive impacts of West Virginia’s Medicaid program.

The presentation included 2015 data on the number of children, adults, people with disabilities, and lower-income seniors who rely on Medicaid health insurance coverage by county. County enrollment varies from 48% in McDowell to 15% in Monongalia County.

They also shared data on the new dollars that came into each 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.

Medicaid is facing a significant funding shortfall next year but ideas for new revenue to support the program and pull in more federal dollars are circulating.

One such recommendation is an increase in West Virginia’s tax on sweetened beverages. Rick Wilson, WVCBP board member, wrote this Charleston Gazette opinion editorial calling for an increase in the state’s sweetened beverage tax.

Hearts, Minds and Futures

In Martinsburg on Tuesday, October 25 from 5:30pm to 7:30pm in the HSC Auditorium at WVU-Martinsburg.

WV Taxes at a Glance – Invite Us to Present to Your Group!

Throughout the next couple of months, WVCBP staff will talk to dozens of organizations across the state about West Virginia’s fiscal condition: specifically how the state can fix its upcoming budget gap, estimated to be at least $300 million next year.

Who pays taxes in West Virginia? What makes up our tax base? To help break it down, we’ve created this new two-pager to help explain (download PDF here).

Want to learn more about West Virginia’s budget process and how we can protect important programs like higher-ed and our K-12 schools? Give us a call and we’ll do a presentation for your organization, civic group or club. Contact Tara for more information.

Protecting Medicaid and Other Health Care Programs

At the September legislative interim meetings, Deputy Secretary of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) Jeremiah Samples and managed-care officials talked about Medical Loss Ratios (MLRs) of West Virginia’s four managed-care plans (MCOs). He did not have good news to share. West Virginia MLRs for managed care are set at 85% – meaning that the MCOs have to spend 85% on medical care and keep 15% for administrative costs and profits.

For State Fiscal Year (SFY) 2016, the average MLR was 97%. This is unsustainable for the MCOs and means Medicaid will have to pay them much more in SFY 2017, adding millions to the State Medicaid Budget.

The WVCBP is currently working with the West Virginia Medicaid Coalition to identify sustainable revenue sources for the state’s Medicaid program to help face these challenges. We plan to publish a report at the end of the year and provide recommendations to legislators.

Also at last month’s interims, WV Department of Health and Human Resources Secretary Karen Bowling was asked to present on more than a dozen public health programs to identify duplication and opportunities to privatize them. Under scrutiny were the Tiger Morton Catastrophic Illness Fund, the Commission for the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing, West Virginia’s national model on End-of-Life Care, the WV Women’s Commission, the child cholesterol screening process, tuberculosis control and others.

With another budget gap looming, it’s possible some of these programs could be on the chopping block during the 2017 Legislative Session.

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Lunch and Learn: Why Is West Virginia So Poor?

Find out at this month’s Lunch and Learn. Grab your lunch and join us on Wednesday, October 12 at the West Virginia Covenant House from 11:30 – 1:00 PM.

Rick Wilson from the American Friends Service Committee and WVCBP Senior Policy Analyst Sean O’Leary will give a sneak preview of the WVCBP’s 2015 State of Working West Virginia report. This year’s edition contains an historical overview of the state’s economy, and where it stands today, and helps to answer the question, Why is West Virginia So Poor?


Hearts, Minds and Futures

Tonight in Morgantown – 5:30pm to 7:30pm in the Rhododendron Room, Mountainlair at WVU!


Marathon Man

Last weekend, WVCBP Executive Director Ted Boettner completed the Wineglass Marathon in Corning, NY, near the Finger Lakes region of New York State.

Here he is at the end of the race, joined by part of his cheering squad, Lucy Boettner.

Way to go, Ted!

Majority Support Reclaim Act

This week the results of a survey of voters across Appalachia show a majority support the Reclaim Act to bring federal resources to hard-hit coal communities. The majority also favor diversifying the area’s economy in order to bring more jobs to the region.

Here’s more from West Virginia Public Broadcasting and the Lexington Herald-Leader.

“Improvement” in Tax Foundation Index Does Not = Jobs

This week, the Tax Foundation released its 2017 State Business Tax Climate Index (SBTCI) that gave West Virginia the 18th-best state business tax climate in the country, better than any of our surrounding states, and up from 34th place.

The reason for this change has do with the major business tax cuts that were phased-in between 2007 and 2015 costing the state budget over $400 million. While this may have reduced business costs, it has led to large budget cuts to programs like higher education from which businesses directly benefit. And the cuts did not bring about private-sector job growth. West Virginia had more private sector jobs in 2007 (619,000), than it does today (614,500).

Read more in Ted’s blog post.

Comment Period Closes in One Week

Click here to add your voice to the hundreds of thousands of people from across the country who are calling for a strong payday lending rule from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. While payday lending is illegal in West Virginia, a weak payday lending rule could give predatory lenders a way to get around our state’s strong protections.


Help Us Get to 1,600 Followers!

We just need 38 new followers on Twitter to meet our goal! Please follow us @WVCBP!

Hearts, Minds and Futures

This Tuesday in Wheeling!

Sometimes Meetings Can Be Tough Stuff

Sid Boettner doesn’t quite make it to the end of yesterday’s meeting