By John Perdue
West Virginia is at a crossroads. While other states are laying off workers and cutting services, West Virginia has an opportunity to invest in its people, businesses and infrastructure to create jobs and attract new businesses to our state.
Like the rest of the nation, many of our neighbors are going through tough financial times.
There is a bright spot, however. Through my efforts, West Virginia has balanced its budget and will finish the current fiscal year with a significant surplus of funds.
How we invest these monies and any additional revenue realized through the Marcellus Shale over the next few years will determine whether West Virginia moves ahead, creating jobs and opportunities for everyone, or whether it will fall behind, losing out on this great opportunity.
We need a governor who knows the difference between spending money and investing. We need a leader who has a plan for our state.
Our greatest challenge is how to grow our economy and create jobs. West Virginia must maintain its stance as the energy capital of the country. So, I propose providing Marshall and WVU with research funding and challenge them to find a safer process to extract our coal and gas resources while protecting our water supply and roads.
I propose earmarking funds from the Marcellus Shale, expected to be in the billions of dollars, to improve our roads and bridges, our education system and small businesses.
You may have read recently of the incentives the state provided Macy's to build a distribution center in the Eastern Panhandle. What do we do to help our small businesses? Virtually nothing. Yet, they are the backbone of our business community. I propose supporting our small businesses by creating a Small Business Bank that will help them expand their companies and create new jobs.
We must reform the Public Service Commission so it will consider the public when reviewing massive rate increases requested by utility companies making huge profits at the expense of our seniors, small businesses and those struggling to make ends meet.
I support changes in our education system that includes year-round schooling, which will help us identify students who are falling behind and then get them the help they need. I support special incentives for new teachers who will go to underserved areas to teach.
Through my efforts as state treasurer and as a senior aide to former Gov. Gaston Caperton, the state of West Virginia is one of only a handful of states with a Rainy Day Fund, balanced state budget and a significant surplus.
I created one of the country's top college savings program, SMART529, and returned more than $100 million in unclaimed property to state residents.
Finally, some may say the upcoming special election is only for a year. I say the decisions we make over the next 12-15 months may very well determine our future for the next decade and beyond.
With your support, I look forward to serving you as governor.
John Perdue, a Democratic candidate for governor, is West Virginia's state treasurer and a resident of Cross Lanes.