This is why West Virginia can’t wait

West Virginia Can’t Wait is a movement to win a people’s government, and the first candidate for office to sign on was Stephen Smith. We need a change. As he says, this should be the richest time in state history. Still, we’re losing people — by one estimate, 41 people a day are leaving West Virginia for better jobs and more money.

The rest of the country is growing but we have the third worst unemployment of any state.

We must start diversifying our state economy. As Smith says, we need an economy like 2050, not 1950. But all we get are more big tax breaks for out-of-state corporations that don’t care about us anyway.

There are things we could do. The number one thing would be to legalize marijuana, because it’s a crop and an industry we can grow here, to help diversify our economy and help our state create middle class jobs. Hemp and marijuana farms, legal dispensaries — these are small businesses that can hire people and pay taxes.

Another thing we can do is invest more in education. I think it needs to be the centerpiece of our state’s economy. We can start by paying our teachers a living wage, which could help keep them from moving away for higher pay, which should also improve our math and reading scores. Getting rid of charter schools and keeping teacher seniority will also help keep our talent and our focus where it needs to be — in K-12 public education.

We also need to lower the price of higher education or make free education a right. It will also help keep the college students in our state and keep them living here in our state. For years the state has cut the budget it puts into public education, making it harder and harder for students of middle class and working families to go to college. We have to reverse that if we want to build an economy that works for all of us.

We get rid of the crooked good old boys in Charleston, like Gov. Jim Justice and Senate President Mitch Carmichael. They are doing nothing for our state and only look out for themselves, their families and their friends. With policies like Right To Work and the end of Prevailing Wage, they are bringing in out-of-state people to work on our roads and other big projects.

We need a governor who pays his taxes and his mine safety fines. We need a senate president who listens to the people of our state, not the billionaires like the Koch Brothers, ALEC and Americans for Prosperity that are pumping secret money into West Virginia.

Stephen Smith is running a grassroots campaign. He’s not taking PAC or corporation money, and can afford to get rid of corporation money in state government. We need a movement like West Virginia Can’t Wait. We need a change in our state, and the way politics are run in our state.

Dylan Vance

Washington, W.Va.