Address highlights top priorities and key pieces of legislation
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (January 13, 2016) – Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin today delivered the 2016 State of the State Address in the House Chamber at the State Capitol Complex.
Gov. Tomblin’s remarks included an overview of new programs and initiatives related to his top priorities as governor, as well as a number of new pieces of legislation he plans to introduce during the 2016 Legislative Session.
Since becoming governor in November 2010, Gov. Tomblin has focused on issues such as workforce development, combatting substance abuse, responsible fiscal policies and job creation. Following are highlights from the State of the State speech and other legislative initiatives of Gov. Tomblin.
Gov. Tomblin has worked to create a positive business climate now and for decades to come, and he remains committed to working with business and industry leaders from a variety of industries to create new investments and bring jobs to West Virginia. Companies from across the nation and around the world are noticing the changes the state has made, and nationally and internationally recognized companies – including Macy’s Amazon, Quad Graphics, Hino Motors, Diamond Electric, Toyota and Procter and Gamble – have chosen to locate, expand and invest in West Virginia.
Tonight, Gov. Tomblin added another company to the list of those that have committed to West Virginia. During the address, Gov. Tomblin announced polymer additive manufacturer Addivant has decided to stay and expand operations in Morgantown, saving nearly 100 jobs and adding at least $12 million in new investments and additional opportunities for employment.
While these large investments are a vital part of West Virginia’s long-term success, Gov. Tomblin is also committed to ensuring small business owners have a chance to excel and grow. Tonight, Gov. Tomblin introduced the Self-Employment Assistance Act, designed to make it easier for unemployed West Virginians to get the help they need to open a business. The act allows entrepreneurs to continue receiving unemployment benefits while establishing their new business. This helps owners reinvest in their new venture and employees, while also providing a steady source of financial support for their families.
In working to bring new investments and create jobs, Gov. Tomblin has also made it a top priority to ensure these jobs are filled by skilled and well-trained West Virginians. With the help of his Workforce Planning Council, Gov. Tomblin has established new workforce development programs and strengthened existing initiatives to meet the needs of business and industry operating here. The state has received more than $40 million in federal grant funding to support Workforce West Virginia operations across the state, helping coal miners, their families, and those who have exhausted their unemployment benefits find careers in growing industries.
Through a collaborative partnership among business, industry, education and labor leaders, Gov. Tomblin has established a new Regional Job Matching Database, an online source for both educational program listings and employment opportunities available close to people’s homes. This database will help match students with training programs in critical needs areas and connect them with employers seeking those same skills.
In addition, Gov. Tomblin also plans to introduce legislation that will expand the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources’ (WVDHHR) Temporary Assistance to Need Families (TANF) pilot program. Through a partnership with the WVDHHR and Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College, the pilot program was designed to help West Virginians already receiving TANF benefits enroll in college courses, get access to financial aid and work with advisors to begin a new career path to support themselves and their families. With this program expansion, more West Virginians will receive the help and support they need to become productive, successful members of their local communities.
STRENGTHENING SOUTHERN WEST VIRGNIA
Gov. Tomblin has dedicated much of his public service to supporting West Virginia’s coal miners and their families. In recent years, both the state and nation have experienced unprecedented downturns in this industry, adversely affecting local operations and devastating the lives of many hardworking West Virginians.
Tonight, Gov. Tomblin highlighted ongoing efforts to support and strengthen all those affected by the downturn in the coal industry. The state has submitted an application to the National Disaster Resilience Competition (NDRC), seeking more than $140 million in funding from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. This competition has the potential to help Boone, Lincoln, Logan, Mingo, McDowell and Wyoming counties adjust, adapt and advance their communities. If successful, funding will be allocated to help repair and rebuild aging infrastructure, promote land use planning and hazard reduction efforts and stimulate housing and economic development in the region. To view the NDRC application in its entirety, click here.
Gov. Tomblin tonight also announced plans to develop of the largest industrial site in West Virginia history – the former Hobet surface mine in Boone and Lincoln counties. At 12,000 acres, this property is large enough to fit every major economic development project in recent history – with thousands of acres left over. The state is working in partnership with local landowners, Marshall University, West Virginia University and the Virginia Conservation Legacy Fund to find ways to re-develop this site and diversify southern West Virginia’s economy.
In working to ensure West Virginia’s energy sector is strong and diverse, Gov. Tomblin has also worked hard to support development of West Virginia’s abundant Marcellus, Utica and Rogersville shale formations. Tonight, Gov. Tomblin stressed the need to create the processing and pipeline infrastructure necessary to ensure this industry’s continued growth now and for years to come, highlighting major investment projects such as the Columbia Gas Mountaineer Xpress pipeline.
Gov. Tomblin also announced that while the Department of Environmental Protection continues to work on a feasibility study related to the state’s Clean Power Plan Submission, it’s likely that plan will include items such as reforestation and replacement of boilers to improve the efficiency of existing coal-fired power plans.
TACKLING SUBSTANCE ABUSE
Gov. Tomblin has made combatting the state’s substance abuse epidemic a top priority of his administration. As communities and families across West Virginia continue to battle substance abuse from a number of fronts, Gov. Tomblin has invested a significant amount of time and funding to strengthen community-based treatment options and programs to give those struggling hope and get them on the road to recovery.
Tonight, Gov. Tomblin introduced legislation to support ongoing substance abuse efforts. He announced new licensing requirements for Suboxone and Methadone clinics, requiring medication-assisted treatment facilities to provide comprehensive therapies in coordination with medication to help to treat the root causes behind addictions, rather than simply supplying a short-term fix.
In addition, Gov. Tomblin introduced legislation to expand the Opioid Antagonist Act of 2015, making opioid antagonists, such as Narcan, available to any West Virginian without a prescription. This new legislation requires pharmacists to train those who receive this drug on how to administer opioid antagonists and helps the state track those receiving Narcan to help better focus state resources in areas hardest hit by opioid overdoses.
Gov. Tomblin’s juvenile justice reforms have also made a significant impact on our state’s youth, as he has worked to improve outcomes for those currently in the juvenile justice system and provide early-intervention care to at-risk students to keep them in the classroom and out of the courtroom. During his address, Gov. Tomblin touted the success of 2015’s Juvenile Justice Reform, specifically highlighting positive results of the truancy diversion program.
He also announced the Division of Juvenile Services has reduced the number of kids being sent to out-of-home placements by more than one-third and reduced the number of detention beds by more than 40 percent. So far the state has saved $6 million, and the Division of Juvenile Services is confident West Virginia can double that savings in coming years.
Ensuring students remain in the classroom for 180 days of learning is just one of Gov. Tomblin’s education priorities, as he is equally committed to ensuring West Virginia’s education system stands ready to provide students with the thorough and efficient education they deserve. In addition, they should receive new learning opportunities that supply the skills and hands-on experience they need achieve long-term success in West Virginia.
To improve upon West Virginia’s educational offerings, Gov. Tomblin has created the Innovation in Education Grant Program, which will not only supply students with special skills and hands-on training, but will also give them the opportunity to compete among their peers on a national and world-wide scale. This new program is designed to reward teachers and schools in West Virginia for innovation and creativity in the classroom. The reallocation of $2.8 million in existing West Virginia Department of Education money will support new classroom offerings that are designed to help students develop and gain these skills in high-demand fields, such as science, technology, engineering, math and entrepreneurship.
Throughout his administration, Gov. Tomblin has made sure to enact and uphold fiscally responsible policies. He understands the state is experiencing significant budget challenges, but remains committed to making difficult choices now that will help ensure West Virginia has a bright future now and for years to come.
Gov. Tomblin tonight introduced legislation to pay off West Virginia’s old workers’ compensation debt more than a decade ahead of schedule. This also will remove additional severance taxes on coal and natural gas industries earlier than anticipated, providing much-needed relief for energy businesses struggling with low prices.
In helping to ensure West Virginia’s tax base is both stable and diverse, Gov. Tomblin tonight also proposed raising the state’s tobacco tax by 45 cents to a total of $1 a pack. This increase will not only help discourage West Virginians from smoking or using tobacco products, it will also provide $71.5 million annually to support health-related costs. $43 million of this revenue will help fund PEIA, ensuring public employees do not see the dramatic benefit reductions initially proposed.
Gov. Tomblin also proposed legislation to eliminate a sale tax exemption that will bring our state’s telecommunications tax in line with 41 other states across the country. This legislation will place the same 6 percent sales tax on cell phone and phone line usage and generate $60 million annually.
With these proposed changes, the 2017 budget Gov. Tomblin presented uses no money from the state’s Rainy Day Fund and in fact predicts surpluses beginning in 2019.
Gov. Tomblin will also introduce the following pieces of legislation:
Workforce Innovation & Opportunity Act (WIOA) Reporting Update
•Updates current West Virginia code to reflect 2014 federal law for compliance and continuation of federal funding from the U.S. Department of Labor.
•Authorizes information sharing by Workforce West Virginia with the state agencies responsible for vocational rehabilitation, employment and training to better align the workforce system with education and economic development in an effort to create a collective response to economic and labor market challenges on the national, state and local levels.
West Virginia Workforce Development Board Updates
•Updates the composition of the West Virginia Workforce Investment Council and changes its name to the West Virginia Workforce Development Board to comply with WIOA.
Borrowing from Rainy Day for Unemployment Compensation Fund
•Authorizes borrowing in amount up to $25 million to provide additional funds for unemployment compensation.
Controlled Substances Monitoring Program (CSMP) Update Bill
•Requires practitioners (doctors, pharmacists and others) to register for the CSMP to obtain or renew a license.
•Creates an administrative fine of $1,000 for failure to register for the CSMP, as well as an administrative fine of $500 for failure to access the CSMP as required.
Certificate of Need Exemption for Out-Patient Behavioral Health Community-Based Services
•Exempts community-based behavioral health care facilities, programs or services from the certificate of need process contained in W.Va. Code 16-2D-1 et seq.
811 – One Call System
•Makes underground pipelines of 4” in diameter and greater subject to “call before you dig” reporting if not otherwise required by state or federal law. Applies to gas, oil or any hazardous substance pipelines.
•Membership in 811 requires an entity to provide mapping data indicating where their underground pipelines are located and to respond within the specified time periods when notified by the 811 administrator and be able to mark its underground pipes.
15 Minutes Rule
•Requires that drilling, production and pipeline activities are subject to the state’s 15-minute emergency notification law (WV Code 15-5B-3a (b)(1)).
•Provisions apply to emergency events that involve a death or serious injuries, unplanned ignitions, fires or explosions and similar serious emergency events (confirmed emergencies) at drilling, production and pipeline sites.
•Notification must be provided within 15 minutes to the West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management and include preliminary information regarding the nature and extent of the emergency event, any existence or non-existence of threats to public health, substances involved or released and designated principal contact information.
Transportation Network Company Bill (TNC) - Uber/Lyft
•Authorizes TNCs to operate in West Virginia by obtaining a permit from DMV.
•Requires automobile insurance and uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage.
•Requires a zero tolerance for drug and alcohol policy.
•Requires TNCs to have a nondiscrimination policy and comply with nondiscrimination laws.
Office of Coalfield Community Development Bill
•Continues the Office of Coalfield Community Development in Commerce (previously in Division of Energy)
Air Ambulance Bill
•Provides air transportation or related emergency or treatment services providers operating in West Virginia from collecting more for service from PEIA covered persons than the currently allowable Medicare reimbursement rate.
Repeal Behavioral Health Severance & Privilege Tax
•Eliminates the behavioral health severance and privilege tax and limits the sales tax exemption on durable medical goods to those purchased for home use only.
•The change is believed to be revenue neutral and will help ensure continued federal matching funds for Medicaid and Medicare.
Reduce Required Annual Severance Tax Deposit to Infrastructure Bond Fund
•Reduces the amount of severance tax proceeds deposited into the West Virginia Infrastructure General Obligation Debt Service Fund for payment of debt service on such bonds from $22.5 million annually to an amount equal to annual debt service, not to exceed $22.25 million annually.
Personal Income Tax Update
•Updates the Personal Income Tax code to be in compliance with federal tax laws
CNIT Update & Revised Filing Date
•Updates the Corporate Net Income Tax code to be in compliance with federal tax laws.
•Terminates funding of the Special Railroad and Intermodal Enhancement Fund beginning January 1, 2016. The source of funding is corporate net income taxes.
Racetrack and Historic Hotel Modernization Funds Cessation
•Ends the Licensed Racetrack Modernization Fund and Historic Hotel Modernization Fund and moves all funds currently in such funds to the General Revenue Fund.
Cessation of Deposit into Road Fund from Sales Tax for FY2016
•Eliminates for fiscal year 2016 the deposit of sales tax proceeds into the State Road Fund from sales of construction and maintenance materials acquired by a second party for use in the construction or maintenance of a highway project.
•Such sales tax proceeds will be deposited into the General Revenue Fund in lieu of the State Road Fund.
State Aid Formula Changes
•Eliminates the Growth County School Facilities Act, which allowed growth county boards of education to designate general fund revenues from new construction (increasing property taxes) for placement in a growth county school facilities act fund.
•Adjusts the formulas for the foundation allowance for both professional educators and service personnel.
•Adjusts and eliminates certain adjustments to the foundation allowance for transportation costs (increasing bus life from 12 to 15 years and mileage from 180,000 to 225,000 miles).
•Adjusts the calculation for the foundation allowance to improve instructional programs.
•Eliminates certain restrictions in the computation of the local share applicable to growth county schools.
Infrastructure Fund Excess Lottery Deposit Reduction
•Decreases the annual deposit of Excess Lottery revenues to the Infrastructure Fund from $40 million to $30 million for fiscal year 2017.
•Increases the percentage of funds that may be disbursed from the Infrastructure Fund in the form of grants from 20% to 50% for fiscal year 2017.
SBA Deposit Reduction
•Decreases for fiscal year 2017 the annual deposit of sales tax proceeds into the School Building Authority’s School Major Improvement Fund from $5 million to $4 million (was reduced for FY16 to $3 million).
•Decreases for fiscal year 2017 the School Building Authority’s School Construction Fund from $27,216,996 to $24,216,996 (was reduced for FY16 to $21,216,996).
To read Gov. Tomblin's State of the State address, as prepared for delivery, click here