Gov. Jim Justice’s attempt to entice thousands of people to move to West Virginia went down in flames last week as the House of Delegates killed his plan to gradually eliminate the state income tax.
On Monday, Justice announced a new program to lure outdoor enthusiasts who want to work from home while living in a rural area. The program offers out-of-state residents who move to West Virginia $12,000 along with passes for one year for whitewater rafting, golf, rock climbing, horseback riding and other outdoor activities. It’s aided by a $25 million donation to West Virginia University from Kenova native Brad Smith, the executive chairman of Intuit’s board of directors and a Marshall University graduate, and his wife, Alys, for an outdoor economic development collaborative. The full value of each package is $20,000. The program is now open for the first 50 slots for people to move to the Morgantown area. Later this year, slots will open for participants to relocate to Shepherdstown and Lewisburg.
It’s good to recruit people to move to West Virginia. But there’s a question in all this: Why spend so much time and effort attracting people to Morgantown (which is already growing), the Eastern Panhandle (which is already growing) and Lewisburg (home of The Greenbrier) when you don’t worry about fixing secondary roads and providing initiatives to improve internet service? Let’s make West Virginia a place where people will want to live instead of a place we have to pay people to move to.
In its annual session that wrapped up Saturday, legislators spent precious little time on the things that matter most to the public at large. Hardly any effort was made to improve the existing road system. The only aspect of the state’s ongoing problem with drug addiction that drew much attention was the idea of needle exchanges. And according to most legislators, the best way to solve deficiencies in the public school system is to get students out of it and into private or home schools.
Make high-speed internet available in Huntington and Charleston, then watch those cities grow. Put it in the southern coal counties, and watch small businesses or home-based businesses take root. Improve our schools. Repair our roads. Embrace harm reduction strategies that work.
Grandiose ideas are fine, but making sure state and local governments take care of the everyday needs of residents is better. That will make West Virginia a place where people want to move to or stay in.