Sprouse

By VIC SPROUSE

CHARLESTON -- West Virginia lawmakers want the state Chamber of Commerce to stop airing ads they say depict West Virginia in a negative light.

Say what?

Don't count me as one of those lawmakers.

I guess the heads of the Joint Commission on Economic Development, Sen. Brooks McCabe and Del. Sam Cann, don't like the ads.

Why? Well ... because they tell the truth about West Virginia's poor business climate.

Goodness forbid the state Chamber of Commerce would actually advocate for a better business climate in the state. These lawmakers want to drag them before a legislative committee and whip them into submission.

After all, how dare they communicate our state's 13th highest tax rates and 49th-place ranking in business climate to our state's citizens? These silly leaders at the state Chamber actually are trying to get a better business climate. Who do they think they are?

Look, the business climate in our state isn't positive. Ask any small business owner, or large business owner, or really anyone who has any interest in business in our state. Especially those who do business in surrounding states.

I guess in the eyes of some lawmakers if only we didn't TALK about our problems, they will just go away. If only the Chamber didn't run ads, we would magically not be rated 49th in the country in business climate.

Steve Roberts, President of the Chamber, who I've taken to task from time to time for not being tough enough on the Democrats, told it like it is. He said the ads were realistic. I didn't realize it was now the Chamber's job to rah-rah the state's image when there isn't much to cheer.

Don't these stupid business owners KNOW that Joe Manchin is our Governor, the Democrats have a stranglehold on the Legislature, and the world is simply a better place? How dare they actually look at their bottom line profits? After all, they should be just happy to be in West Virginia. Who cares if they are overtaxed and not making money, the Joint Commission on Economic Development knows best.

Cann and McCabe pointed to the state paying down the state's debt and enacting "tax reform" as proof that the state has made progress.

Let's be honest, most businesses could give a crap less that we paid down some of our unfunded liabilities. While it's a good thing for the long-term prospects in our state, how many Fortune 500 companies are going to say, hey West Virginia paid down $1 billion of it's, oh, say $10 billion in outstanding debt. Yeah, let's locate there.

And I guess "tax reform" in the eyes of the chairmen consist of a whopping 0.25 percent off the corporate net income tax. I'm sure there were champagne corks popping around corporate America when they heard that one.

Tax reform isn't nibbling around the edges and "lowering" taxes so that we're now only 1.75 percent higher than surrounding states instead of 2 percent. Tax reform is fundamentally changing our state system to encourage business growth.

But, this is exactly where the Chairmen go wrong and exactly why you saw a collective yawn with the Manchin tax cut proposals.

Cann and McCabe say the chamber needs to be at the proverbial table, negotiating with labor and other groups to obtain change.

Again, say what?

Since when, guys? So, now the Chamber can only advocate for business-related positions under the guise of "negotiations" with labor and other groups?

No, they shouldn't. And, actually, these baby step "compromises" are exactly what's wrong.

When the state of Virginia went through it's massive transformation to a business-friendly state, do you think they sat unions and business around the "table" and came up with a compromise that changed their state's business climate? Of course, they didn't. If they did, they'd be ... well ... us.

I personally think the proverbial "table" should be blown to smithereens.

And, instead of us only achieving change through everyone walking away happy (i.e. we don't really change anything), let's actually make the tough decisions to change the direction of our state. If someone who used to sit at the now obliterated table doesn't like it (ummm ... unions), well golly gee, that's going to have to be just too bad.

They can complain as more businesses locate in our state and they are trying to figure out exactly which new ones they are going to try to unionize.

Senator Vic Sprouse is the Minority Leader of the West Virginia Senate. He has served in the Legislature since 1995 and resides in Charleston. He graduted from Penn State University with a Chemical Engineering degree and currently owns and operates several fitness centers in West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

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