CHARLESTON, W.Va. – A group of Democratic legislators in the West Virginia statehouse are pushing for more policies to retain and attract young people to the state.
Senate Minority Leader Stephen Baldwin, (D-Greenbrier) was joined by Senator Mike Woelfel (D-Cabell), Delegate Sean Hornbuckle (D-Cabell) and Delegate Shawn Fluharty (D-Ohio) to voice support for current legislation and ideas on how to attract younger people to the Mountain State.
“They don’t have job opportunities in chosen fields. I think not all of them feel welcome here. The cultural opportunities they have elsewhere. A lot of our young people don’t have hope for the future in West Virginia,” Baldwin said.
He said his party is working on incentives to stay in-state such as educational assistance. Baldwin said no young people have ever asked him to cut the income tax, which has been the centerpiece of this current legislative session by Gov. Jim Justice.
Baldwin said the state must protect the things that matter to young people including education, clean water and equality for all people.
Fluharty was adamant about the focus on education and how that drives the economy. He said he was a recipient of the first promise scholarship class but the program is a shell of what it used to be.
Fluharty is the lead sponsor of House Bill 2586, which expands the amount of promise scholarship funds awarded to persons majoring in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
“Right now if you’re competing in the job market and make more money in a bordering state, you’re going to go there. That decision may be a $10,000 decision and we know you have student loans, it makes it easier to leave,” he said.
“Let’s make it harder for young people to leave. Let’s make it a decision. Right now, it’s not of a decision.”
Hornbuckle said one of the ways to appropriate money to education, infrastructure, small business, and communities to keep young people around is to promote adult-use cannabis.
He is the sponsor of House Bill 2665, which legalizes cannabis and provides taxation of cannabis. The bill would allow cannabis market activity as regulated by the Department of Commerce.
Woelfel said now is the time to attract people of all ages to this state as remote work becomes more prevalent with the COVID-19 pandemic. He wants to see work on broadband availability and economic tourism.
“There are bad policies that are not inclusive that are working its way through this building,” he said.
“You can market your state as much as you want but if the perception of your state is a non-inclusive area, that will affect your workforce and tourism economy.”
Attracting remote workers to Charleston is the focus of a plan by Charleston Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin. She hinted at an announcement in the coming days with the Charleston Area Alliance and the Charleston CVB on an effort to attract those types of workers as they move away from large markets.
Charleston was recently ranked 26th on a list of the Top 100 of the best work-from-home cities in the country by PC Magazine. In the article, it states that Charleston gives a big city feel but has small-town amenities and outdoor recreation.
“It’s something we’ve been looking at for a while and I think we have the right team at the table to get this program off the ground,” Mackenzie Spencer with the City of Charleston’s office said on 580-LIVE on 580-WCHS Monday.
“We agree with the article. We think we have all the things that people need that can work remotely. They can still have such a great life here in Charleston and not have to pay the prices of other places and not have the recreational opportunities in other places.”