Parkersburg News and Sentinel. May 10, 2023.
Editorial: Police: Culture shift needed to boost recruitment
There has been plenty of news about the bad behavior of some in law enforcement in West Virginia. But Mountain State residents know the majority of those working to serve and protect us are trying their best to do their jobs responsibly. It isn’t easy, as WalletHub’s “2023’s Best and Worst States to be a Police Officer” reveals West Virginia is ranked 49th.
Alaska and Arkansas may be worse, but not by much. West Virginia is ranked 48th for opportunity and competition; 45th for law enforcement training requirements; and 37th for job hazards and protections. Here we are 51st (yep, the familiar “dead last”) in median income growth for law enforcement officers, and 47th for state and local police-protection expenses per capita.
No wonder we have such a hard time recruiting good, bright young people to fill the gaps in law enforcement agencies.
Those who have been paying attention to the news about poor decisions and bad behavior by those in positions of authority at some of our law enforcement agencies will note that ranking of 45th for training. For that metric, WalletHub considered police officer hours training required; whether a state allows or forbids police work before basic training; continued professional education hours required; police officer education requirements; states’ laws (or not) requiring officers to be trained to respond to mental health, substance use and behavioral disorder issues; and requirement of de-escalation training.
Meanwhile, two of our neighbors — Maryland and Ohio — rank in the top ten best states to be a police officer. From many of our communities, those states are an easy commute (or an easy move). WalletHub notes compensation, benefits, training and protections make a big difference for potential officers, but also that “Officers are more likely to be attracted to police departments that steer clear of scandal and corruption and that are transparent with their communities.”
Given how hard agencies going all the way up to the West Virginia State Police are going to have to work to reach that point, it may take some time before new recruits are banging down the doors looking to apply. City councils, county commissions and state lawmakers can take care of some of the items on our to-do list. But it will take a significant culture shift to make a real difference for the officers we have, and any we hope to recruit in the years to come.
The Intelligencer. May 9, 2023.
Editorial: Break W.Va.’s Tobacco Habit
Given the information available about the dangers of using tobacco products, one would think young people would be avoiding it at all costs. But here in West Virginia, the opposite seems to be true. A study by Drug Watch reports we have the highest rate in the country of high school students who vape, at more than 35%.
West Virginia’s Division of Tobacco Prevention says the state also has the highest percentage of adults who use tobacco, at 25.2%. WBOY in Clarksburg reports an increase even more frightening, however. THC vape products are being found in schools — with some concern that those products could be laced with fentanyl.
Though some in the tobacco industry would like the public to believe vaping is less harmful, they are still dangerous and addictive. That means expensive, too — in terms of both the cost of the product and the medical costs. But in the Mountain State, tax law has not caught up with newer tobacco products, and while the tax rate for cigarettes is $1.20 per pack, the tax on vape liquid is only 15 cents per 2 milliliters. That’s just one piece of evidence that too many of our elected officials still do not take seriously the damage tobacco use does to our residents.
Of course, those people are elected by voters who also still have an unhealthy relationship with the tobacco industry. Stronger educational efforts are needed as well, at home and publicly. For parents or guardians who use tobacco, the best way to educate the young people in their care is to quit, and talk to them about why (and how hard it is, once a person is hooked). If West Virginia does not break its tobacco habit, the statistics will only grow grimmer. We’ve waited long enough. The time is now.
Bluefield Daily Telegraph. May 9, 2023.
Editorial: Another surplus: W.Va. still on solid financial ground
April’s revenue data is painting another impressive picture for West Virginia, which is still on solid financial ground. In fact, the most recent revenue surplus was another record for the Mountain State.
West Virginia’s general revenue collections for April were $319 million above estimates, marking the largest single-month surplus in state history.
Additionally, the state’s personal income tax collections totaled $192.8 million above estimates for April, which is also a new all-time record for a single month.
Those are impressive numbers, and Republican Gov. Jim Justice wasted no time last week touting the good news.
“This is a historic accomplishment — setting new records for the largest single-month revenue and personal income tax collections in state history,” Justice said. “I am proud of our state’s financial health, but I am also incredibly proud of the hardworking West Virginians who helped put us in this financial position. It’s an honor to be able to make announcements like this because West Virginia has truly turned bankruptcy into prosperity. All West Virginians should carry with them a sense of pride, because our state is on the move and the envy of the world.”
“When you really look at these numbers, you see a very healthy West Virginia economy with people working and people making higher wages,” Secretary of Revenue Dave Hardy added.
Four major components accounted for 92% of the year-to-date surplus and more than 90% of the year-to-date 14.1% revenue gain, according to the governor’s office. They were:
• April personal income tax collections exceeded the monthly estimate by $192.8 million. Record year-to-date collections of more than $2.277 billion were $439.5 million above the official estimate and 9.0% ahead of prior year receipts.
• April general revenue fund severance tax collections totaled nearly $35.6 million. Monthly collections exceeded the official estimate by nearly $17.6 million. Record year-to-date general revenue fund severance tax collections of $822.5 million were 48.1% ahead of last year and $622.5 million above estimate.
• Consumer sales tax collections of $129.2 million were $18.8 million above estimate in April and 5.3% ahead of prior year collections. Cumulative collections of more than $1.398 billion were $189.6 million above the official estimate and 6.6% ahead of last year.
• Corporation net income tax collections totaled nearly $98 million in April. Monthly collections were nearly $65 million above estimate. Year-to-date collections of $330.8 million were $205.8 million above the official estimate and 17.8% ahead of prior year-to-date collections.
What all of this means is that West Virginia is financially strong. That’s good news for everyone who proudly calls the Mountain State home, and should serve as a strong marketing tool for prospective businesses and industries that are looking to relocate or expand.
Will the revenue surplus continue? Nothing lasts forever, but at least for now, West Virginia is celebrating a healthy economy.
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