Bureaucracy: Licensing requirements hindering opportunity

When Forbes reported on a couple of studies of West Virginia’s economy by the Knee Center for the Study of Occupational Regulation and published by the Cardinal Institute, many of the discussion points were familiar.

Our geography is both a blessing and curse — we are a rural state, in which it can be difficult to built, but (relatively) easy to extract resources; we are too reliant on those extraction industries; we have a low education attainment rate; we have low workforce participation …

But there was one factor that may come as a surprise. West Virginia’s occupational licensing regulations and fees create “higher barriers to work than those of its neighbors,” according to Forbes. In other words, our regulatory environment may be to blame for some of that lowered workforce participation.

Across the occupations for which West Virginia has licensing requirements, the initial licensing fees are 7.7 percent more expensive than in Ohio and 8 percent more expensive than in Pennsylvania. For 25 of the 64 occupations studied, there are also higher barriers to entry in West Virginia than in Ohio or Pennsylvania. According to the authors of the study, those more stringent requirements for licensing do not make consumers safer or happier with service.

Nevertheless — and this brings us round to the topic of all those unnecessary boards and commissions we have in the Mountain State — we have 38 different licensing boards and commissions. That is 17 more than Ohio and nine more than Pennsylvania.

King Bureaucracy and the monstrous tax and regulatory structure that feeds it are not killing opportunities only for large-scale employers who might want to come to West Virginia, they are killing opportunities for the little guys, too. Lawmakers will likely be forced in January to take another look at eliminating waste and fraud in our state’s budget while also seeking new sources of revenue.

It looks as though the Knee Center study has given them a good place to start.