Republican caucus unveils 2014 Legislative priorities - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Republican caucus unveils 2014 Legislative priorities

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"That this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth," was a phrase Abraham Lincoln used in his Gettysburg Address.

On Jan.7, the Republican caucus used the famous quote by Abraham Lincoln to outline the "new birth of freedom" they hope to instill in the Mountain State for the 2014 Legislative session.

According to Tim Armstead, House Republican leader, "we believe West Virginia is looking for a new beginning, a new birth of freedom," he said.

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

In the positive pro-growth and pro-jobs agenda, the people of West Virginia are the caucus's main focus.

Putting money back into the pockets of those in the Mountain State to meet the basic needs of life and giving them the ability to send their children to college are top on the priority list, as well as putting money back into the private sector to channel more money into the economy.

"We're not talking about government creating jobs," Armstead said. "We're talking about government creating an atmosphere that the private sector can create jobs in West Virginia."

Other priorities include reducing the tax burden on working West Virginians, insuring a well-educated workforce who can take full advantage of economic opportunities and creating a fair tax structure.

As the budget becomes more restricted, "there are always calls to simply tax the people more," Armstead said. "West Virginians can't afford to be taxed more. We are already lowest in term of our median income in the country and our people simply can't afford any further tax burden."

 Strengthening infrastructure, insuring a fair and predictable court system and eliminating over-regulation are additional objectives.

"We're not talking about basic regulations for safety," Armstead said. "Those are important but we are over-regulated as a state. We have too much red tape that those who want to employee West Virginians have to go through."

Acknowledging Strengths

Important to the Republican caucus is realizing where the Mountain State's strengths really lie.

An undisputable strength is the natural resources and energy production.

To expound on that strength, Armstead called for an expansion of the energy market, eliminating barriers to growth in terms of the energy sector, coal and natural gas and encouraging the development of those particular resources.

In order to focus and promote energy production, not getting in one's own way is vital, the caucus acknowledged.

One example is the recent announcement of the cracker plant in Wood County.

According to the Republican caucus, the cracker plant has an impediment to its construction that is a result of "getting in one's own way."

About two Legislative sessions ago, green house gas limitations were adopted that "will provide a high hurdle for the developers of the cracker plant to cross."

If the regulations had been left as they were, ‘there wouldn't be that impediment."

When looking to develop energy resources in the Mountain State, the Republican caucus will be mindful to not get in their own way in trying to curry favor with national parties and the national congressional leadership.

Looking at Impact

Important in job creation, is studying the impact laws and legislation have in job creation here in the Mountain State.

For the past few years, the Republican caucus has pushed a jobs impact statement as a requirement to legislation because "it's important that we have that information before us when we're ready to pass that legislation."

According to the Republican caucus, a precedent exists due to the required fiscal statements and prison impact statements.

Accountability

High on the priority list is also ensuring accountability through transparency.

Daryl Cowles, Minority Whip for the House of Delegates, said, "Open government is a disinfectant to abuse."

West Virginia needs to have security and confidence in their minds that the government is operating fairly and honestly, the Republican caucus said.

Honest and clean elections, not allowing felons to hold public office, eliminating voting irregularities and holding officials accountable that violate the fair and honest standards of the office are all ways of insuring trust and peace of mind from the public.

Education

According to statistics, the Mountain State ranks 49 in K-12 achievement despite the fact that in terms of per capita that is placed in education, West Virginia is second in the country.

"There's certainly a disconnect there that we need to address," Armstead said.

Providing quality education, returning as much control of education to the local level as possible, allowing parents more choice in how they educate their kids and reducing state bureaucracy are all important in improving education, Armstead said.

Also important is addressing the "concern in our state from the federal level and local government that many of our freedoms are being infringed upon."

"We are optimistic about…where we can be," Armstead said. "We care about this state and the people."