By JOE MANCHIN

CHALRESTON -- Working closely with the Legislature and its leaders, we have addressed the tough issues that have long hindered our economic progress and achieved the kind of results that many thought would be impossible to accomplish, even if given a lifetime.

Today, West Virginia is a national leader when it comes to state financial management.

For instance, we recently received word that for the first time in well over a decade, Standard and Poor's Ratings Services has raised its rating on West Virginia's general obligation (GO) debt outstanding to "AA," up from "AA-" based on the state's continued strong financial performance and continued commitment to address its long-term liabilities through this most recent period of national economic downturn.

This is truly significant because this means that West Virginia, including local school boards, can obtain money to finance major projects, like infrastructure, at a lower interest rate. This will positively affect water and wastewater projects as well as certain types of economic development ventures. The ratings suggest that the state's bonds are more attractive and stable for investors, which means that West Virginia taxpayers get a better deal on the money the state borrows.

In addition, West Virginia was one of very few states to actually close its books on Fiscal Year 2009 with an Excess Lottery budget surplus of about $57 million. We also had General Revenue efficiencies of nearly $17 million, because our state agencies lived within their means and made responsible decisions. All of this is just further proof that we continue to move in the right direction in the Mountain State.

Our hard work and responsible fiscal management are paying off, and our little state is getting a lot of national recognition and attention. As I have said many times before, our state is well-positioned to deal with the challenging economic times our nation and the world are experiencing. While other states are struggling to just make ends meet, West Virginia is still paying its bills, without cutting services, raising taxes or laying off workers.

Therefore, we must keep going full steam ahead to continue to stimulate and encourage economic growth across our state. The cornerstone to any successful business, organization or state government is solid financial management. We have that in West Virginia and now is the time to build upon it. When the economy bounces back, we will be poised to take our state to the next level.

I thank all West Virginians for their part in making this success possible.

Manchin in governor of West Virginia.

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