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Economy: Legislative promises have not been kept

Mountain State residents who were certain there would be dramatic change and improvement a few years back when decades of Democratic majority in Charleston gave way to what was supposed to be a Republican — conservative — revolution might be surprised by the analysis in the free-market Fraser Institute’s 2020 Economic Freedom in North America report.

Remember all the talk about right-sizing government, eliminating waste, fraud and red tape? West Virginia’s economy was finally going to be free of King Bureaucracy and the big-government types holding it hostage.

It turns out, according to the Fraser Institute, with help from the Cardinal Institute for West Virginia Policy (also a free-market group), data from 2018 shows West Virginia has one of the lowest levels of economic freedom in the country. At an overall 49th out of 50, the state is 49th in government spending, 47th in labor market freedom and 36th in taxes, according to the report.

Fred McMahon, one of the co-authors of the study, told another media outlet West Virginia “has one of the slowest growth rates in the United States, and wage growth of the poorest has been much slower than the U.S. average.”

Suggestions for changing that include elimination of the personal income tax and other economic and regulatory reforms that would boost job creation and retention.

Easier said than done, of course, as the folks who rode the wave into Charleston in 2014 found out rather quickly. Still, they’ve got to try something. Analysis from an unabashedly free-market think tank can be taken with a grain of salt; but it takes no time at all in talking with ordinary West Virginians to know whatever we were promised would be fixed back then is still broken.

More fresh blood is headed to the statehouse for the upcoming legislative session, whatever form that may take. Let’s hope those folks take with them a renewed dedication to making state government and King Bureaucracy serve the people of this state, rather than themselves.

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