Gov. Joe Manchin delivers the State of the State address on Wednesday, Jan. 11, in the House of Delegates chambers at the State Capitol.
"It has been a difficult week in our state. Just seven short days ago, we lost 12 hard-working and brave West Virginians; men who left their homes each day knowing the inherent difficulty and danger of the jobs they performed and men who were proud to provide for their families, proud to be a West Virginian and proud of the energy they produced to keep America strong.
"We cannot know the purpose of this tragedy – but I assure you we will discover the cause. I am committing every resource available to me to aid in the investigation - not only to determine what happened inside the Sago Mine that caused this terrible accident, but also how the information received outside of the mine regarding the condition of the miners could have been so horribly wrong. Families should never be put through such a heartbreaking, emotional nightmare. Even more important, I rededicate myself and the State to the task of making our mines the safest in the country so that we can avoid future tragedies like the one we have just experienced. ...
"But as the nation continues to watch us tonight, there is so much more they need to know. While the hearts of West Virginians are grieving, the State of West Virginia remains strong.
"This past year has been one of the most important and productive in West Virginia's history. Working together, we accomplished more to improve our economy and create good paying jobs with benefits than most people believed could be achieved in a decade.
"We enacted substantial ethics reforms; passed Healthy Lifestyles legislation; tackled methamphetamine usage; continued to pay down our debt; gave our universities increased flexibility to pursue new research that could spawn new discoveries; and, enacted the first comprehensive teacher pay package in more than 15 years.
"Our workers' compensation reforms restored confidence in our economy and, most especially, allowed us to do a better job of protecting our injured workers.
"As a result of insurance reforms, more than $70 million dollars has been returned to consumers in the form of reductions in their car and homeowner insurance premiums, which is $20 million dollars more than was originally promised back to our citizens. Many lines of business insurance have been re-opened as well, and insurance companies that were considering reducing their operations and potentially laying off workers in West Virginia are now looking instead towards expansion.
"You, the Legislature, also approved a responsible one percent reduction in the state sales tax on groceries from six cents on the dollar to five cents, resulting in a savings to taxpayers of $25 million dollars. This one percent reduction is simply a starting point, and we will continue to reduce this tax in a fiscally responsible manner as the state's economy grows until we have eliminated it completely.
"These changes show that West Virginia is serious about getting our financial house in order and opening our doors to new businesses. ...
"The economy and job outlook of West Virginia is improving, as is the state's financial picture. We have not, nor will we ever, blame anyone for the sins of the past. We have instead accepted our state's challenges and worked together to meet them. Last Fiscal Year ended with the state having a significant surplus, and together we made responsible decisions to pay down our unfunded pension liabilities. We also made other one-time investments that helped all West Virginia taxpayers. This Fiscal Year will also result in a significant budget surplus. However, as Thomas Jefferson once said, and also my grandfather, 'Never spend money before you have it.'
"While our immediate budget picture is certainly healthy, we must not fall into the trap of spending that short-term money unwisely, because our future budgetary outlook contains more major challenges.
"Which is why, in keeping my promise to you, for the very first time in West Virginia's history, I am providing the Legislature with a five-year forecast of our revenues and expenditures. Never before has this been done, but if, as I've pledged, we're going to run this state like a business, then this is a vitally important component of that effort. Our state's traditional shortsightedness has to end. We must ensure that the decisions we make today are right for tomorrow as well, and this five-year forecast gives us the tools we all need to do just that. ...
"To the many Americans across the country who may be watching us tonight and the companies around the world that may be looking for a place to do business, I want you to know that when you give a West Virginian a chance to have a good job, you'll not find a harder, more productive worker anywhere else on this planet. The reality of today's world is that businesses and states are partners. In any good partnership both must be satisfied: companies must receive a marketable return on their investment and government must receive the good jobs with benefits that its people deserve. That's a good partnership.
"My administration, our Legislature, our United States Senators Robert C. Byrd and Jay Rockefeller, Congressmen Alan Mollohan and Nick Jo Rahall and Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito understand that, and as a result we are working together to be the best partners you will ever have. Just ask the companies that have chosen to do business with us this past year.
"For example, West Virginia's long friendship with Japan, started years ago by Senator Rockefeller, continued to yield economic development results. Last year, Toyota, Diamond Electric and A.K. of West Virginia all announced plans to expand.
In addition, approximately 40 other major companies, including Amazon.com, Esseco, Northrup Grumman, and Prime Woods just to mention a few chose to either locate or expand their operations in West Virginia during 2005 as well, including our very first Australian company, Intelli-Spray. In fact, 8,100 new jobs were created in West Virginia last year with more than $2 billion dollars of new investments in West Virginia's economy.
"These are the types of good paying jobs with healthcare benefits that we're looking for in West Virginia. These are also the types of companies that serve as good corporate neighbors to our state. For example, during this legislative session, Toyota will once-again be presenting a new car to West Virginia's Teacher of the Year.
"And there are more good jobs, and more good corporate neighbors, on the horizon. Talking to the state's business leaders, they know West Virginia will be experiencing net-gains of thousands of more new jobs in 2006 in areas such as manufacturing, chemical operations, oil and gas extraction, nursing and more. ...
"My administration is also continuing our comprehensive review of the state's tax structure to determine what changes can and should be made to make it easier for our small businesses, the true lifeblood of our economy, to succeed.
"Working together, we are changing the perception the world has of West Virginia's economy and, most importantly, West Virginians in general. We are beginning to see and experience real employment opportunities that will have a lasting impact and provide a concrete reason for our children to stay, work and live in the Mountain State.
"However, as optimistic as I am about the current direction of our economy and our efforts to tie our educational resources to companies' workforce needs, I am also the first to say that there is still much more to be done.
"Job losses and layoffs have taken their toll on many West Virginia families and communities. We, as a state and as a government, will continue to do everything possible to help those affected to reenter our workforce as quickly as possible. I will also continue to hold those companies responsible that have taken tax breaks or incentives from our state without living up to their job creation promises. The days of taking advantage of West Virginia and its citizens are over!
"Which brings me to some very significant news: As I just mentioned, in order for our state to attract new businesses and industries, we must have the skilled workforce that today's employers are so desperately seeking. And we must devote our educational resources to the development of that workforce.
To that end, I am pleased to announce that a new technology park will soon be created utilizing part of Dow's South Charleston Technology Park. With the cooperation and coordination of Dow, West Virginia University, WVU Tech and Marshall University, the current park will soon be transformed into a nationally recognized education, research and development center. This initiative will also result in the relocation of engineering programs at WVU Tech from Montgomery to the Technology Park, which will then function as a division of WVU's College of Engineering and Mineral Resources. WVU Tech will then become one institution again, combining the remaining four-year programs in Montgomery with the two-year programs. This reconstituted WVU Tech at Montgomery will be able to grow and continue its commitment to meeting regional education and workforce training needs. ...
"In addition, as more proof that our economic development efforts are working, in November of last year I was pleased to welcome to West Virginia Chesapeake Energy Corporation, the second largest independent producer of natural gas and the most active driller of new natural gas and oil wells in the United States. ... With its $3 billion purchase of Appalachian Basin natural gas reserves, Chesapeake will soon begin to aggressively explore and develop clean natural gas wells not only here in West Virginia, but in many other eastern states as well, including Kentucky, Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York. ...
"And, I have even more news to announce. I'm pleased to report that this afternoon Appalachian Power filed an application with the Public Service Commission of West Virginia seeking authority to construct a 600-megawatt Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle power plant – or IGCC – electric generating unit in West Virginia. The proposed power plant would be located next to the company's Mountaineer Plant near New Haven in Mason County.
"This is great news for economic development in the state. As one of the first commercial scale coal gasification projects, this proposed plant will allow us to lead the nation in the development of clean coal technology for power generation. Plus, coal gasification technology offers future opportunities to produce clean liquid fuels and chemical feedstock for other industries. ...
"We are open for business, because business means jobs and creating good jobs with benefits is my personal responsibility as your Governor."