This Week's Columns:
Alli's Angle: My Opinion on the State of the State Address
By Alli Clark / Reporter
While Governor Jim Justice is a plain spoken individual, his plan to get our State out of the "crazy" debt we are in is extensive.
Some aspects of his State of the State address, I absolutely loved, whilst others seem far fetched and may damage our environment.
Justice is all about getting us out of dead last in economic statistics as well as education and for this I will commend him with, if he succeeds.
Justice wants to raise Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) fees from $30 to $50. This is a great idea. How often do you make a trip to the DMV? I don't think that is a change that will impact anyone in West Virginia significantly. Paying $50, once every few years, shouldn't be a big deal.
DMV fees have not been raised in 40 years according to Justice. This probably is due to change, maybe not $20, but it is something worth trying to gain revenue.
Justice wants to use the money generated by the increased fees, to complete infrastructure projects.
The labor jobs he wants to bid out to companies and build apprenticeship programs for displaced miners and young people. Which is a terrific idea! We need jobs in West Virginia.
WV is full of skilled workers and workers who are willing to learn new trades. That is exactly what we need to revitalize our State.
Then, Justice wants to charge the winning bidder of the project a five percent construction severance, then apply that money into drug treatment facilities. Those we are in desperate need of!
The amount of drugs in Lewis County is unreal. I never imagined our small community would have some of the largest drug busts in the State. These people need help.
Another topic Justice addressed was education. Justice plans to submit a bill that will eliminate unnecessary bureaucracies in education and return as much as possible to the local level. He also is budgeting a two percent raise for all classroom teachers.
I think that both of these topics are terrific. Teachers deserve a raise! Need I say more or even elaborate.
Justice wants to add a half of a penny in additional sales taxes, which ends up not being that significant.
However, if the legislature raises the sales tax, then the City of Weston tacks on the one percent sales tax, citizens will be swimming in sales taxes. It may not mean a lot to people who make $100,000 plus annually, but this could potentially affect Lewis County greatly.
Most of Lewis County is made up of lower class individuals. Can we survive an 15 % sales tax in Weston? I already know that is a NO!
Justice also would like to implement a two-tenths of one percent tax to businesses that would be similar to a B&O Tax. I am not a business owner, but this may hurt the mom and pop businesses that already struggle. Some of these small businesses are under the oppression of city B&Os among other yearly fees. I wouldn't want the responsibility on my shoulders for the brick and mortar shops closing state-wide.
The largest issue I take from his state of the state is raising the gas tax in WV an additional 10 cents.
WV already has a high gas tax. What if gas prices sky rocket to $5.00/gallon again? People will not be able to drive anywhere to enjoy the state! Citizens will not be about to afford to drive to work, this will lead to higher unemployment rates, and so on.
Money, money, money, I feel that is what the government wants from its people.
Now, Justice says that two of the tax policies will be taken away after three years, how do you guarantee that? There is no way of knowing.
I want a future for my family here, this is not going to solved by taxing us to death, nationally, state-wide and locally.
Right now I feel like "We the People" are going to be picked at until there is nothing left!
Justice says that he wants WV to be the eighth state in the country without an income tax, if he is able to accomplish this in his term, I will applaud him, but then we have a fear of higher prices of items.
While some of Justice's ideas are wonderful, I felt as if the majority were too money hungry.
Yes, WV needs money to survive, but taxing and making crazy fees will cripple the lower class, in my opinion.
Justice although registered as a Democrat, seems to lean toward Republican ideals. One example of which is his love of coal. He wants to revitalize the coal industry.
Coal is a nonrenewable energy source. We need to look towards renewable energy in West Virginia and stop polluting and extinguishing our nonrenewable resources.
West Virginia has 11 major rivers, explore hydropower. Lewis County would benefit tremendously from this considering we already have a dam.
People say that using renewable energy will put people out of work, this simply isn't true. People will have to adapt their skill set to new jobs though. Instead of mining coal, you may be building windmills, instead of transporting coal you could assemble solar panels.
Please don't think I am attacking the coal industry, I am not. Coal worked great in West Virginia for many year, but it isn't any longer. We as West Virginians, have to do what is best for our State and find other revenue sources that are sustainable.
In summary, I hope that Justice lives up to his hype with cutting nonessentials from the budget. However, I am worried for West Virginia too, I am worried that we are going to be taxed, taxed and taxed for the next four years, locally and at the State level.
By Bruce M. Loyd, Lewis County Extension Agent
The 2017 Appalachian Grazing Conference will be held at the Waterfront Hotel and Conference Center in Morgantown, WV from March 9 to 11. The theme for this year's conference is "Growing Grass to New Heights: Does Your Grass Measure Up"
Activities will start with a pre-conference tour the afternoon of March 9. This bus tour will leave the Waterfront Hotel at 2 PM and take participants to visit the new Agricultural Sciences Building. The tour will then continue to the J.W. Ruby Research Farm outside Reedsville, WV to view and discuss pasture-based beef production and the new equine teaching and service facility.
The tour will end with a roast beef dinner at the Reedsville farm. You can watch an excellent video of these toured facilities at the 2017 Appalachian Grazing Conference registration website http://www.wvagc.com/
On Friday, March 10, the Keynote speaker will be Teddy Gentry. You may know him as the bass player in the legendary country music group Alabama. Today he is known as the owner-operator of Bent Tree Cattle Co. and originator of the South Poll composite breed. Teddy gives high praise to 4-H and FFA for helping him get started in life. Teddy will give a presentation on how he is selecting and breeding cattle to fit his local environment.
On Saturday, March 11, Dr. Peter Ballerstedt will speak on the health benefits of pasture-raised livestock products. Peter was the Forage Extension specialist at Oregon State University from 1986 to 1992 and is now the Forage Product Manager for Barenbrug USA; marketers of improved forage grass and legumes seeds. Peter is an expert in forage and ruminant animal production.
These speakers and other local and regional speakers will conduct breakout sessions on breeding and managing livestock for production efficiency, health benefits of pasture-fed livestock products, small ruminant management, soil health, and pasture management. Also, sponsors and vendors will have products for viewing at booths and on the floor of the trade show in the conference hall.
You can view YouTube videos of past Appalachian Grazing Conferences at:
Registration for the main conference is $150 if received by March 3, 2017. The preconference tour and dinner costs an additional $35, with registration by March 7. A block of rooms at the Waterfront Hotel has been reserved at the special rate of $105 plus tax per night if reservations are made by February 15.
Contact the Waterfront Hotel directly for room reservation (866-782-9974 or 304-296-1700). The conference brochure (with hardcopy registration form) and secure online registration for the 2017 Appalachian Grazing Conference are available on the web at: http://www.wvagc.com/