August 29, 2012

Tomblin, Manchin discuss problems, successes in state | The State Journal

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and Sen. Joe Manchin spoke about West Virginia's successes and plans for future success during the Aug. 29 portion of the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce's annual meeting and Business Summit.

During the opening lunch, Tomblin told members the state has improved finances by increasing reserves, addressing liabilities and balancing the budget.

"We have addressed teachers, judges and troopers retirement initiatives and workers' compensation," Tomblin told members. "We also addressed our last major liability when we implemented a plan to pay out other post employment benefits."

Tomblin also touted the state's credit rating, which he says has been improving three years in a row.

But problems are not over yet, he said.

"I'm not satisfied with where we are in West Virginia right now," he said. "The tax structure needs additional work and find ways to improve regulatory climate."

Tomblin said he wants to maintain a "fiscally conservative policy" and better manage the state's health care costs.

Like Tomblin, Manchin said he was happy with the privatization of workers' compensation.

"Who would have thought eight years ago that we would be standing here today talking about having our finances in order and living within our means? … Who would have thought we could privatize workers' compensation?"

Manchin mentioned a concern, however, with what he called the federal administration's "lack of understanding" or implementation of an energy independence policy. Manchin said there should be a state-by-state audit and a "declaration of energy independence."

"We should know in West Virginia, California or Nevada what is the dependence on foreign oil," he said. "Right now, since no one can grasp it, everyone has a different opinion. … The last audit we did when I was governor, we were dependent on foreign oil in the state of West Virginia. How in the world can that be?"

Manchin said at that time, however, they did not factor in Marcellus Shale.

Manchin ended by telling Chamber members that he would be committed to business.

"We are in a tough enough market. It's tough enough with competition. You don't need the government working against you. You don't mind losing an employee to another employer. … You can adjust to the market but by God when the government pays people for not working more than what I can give that person in a working environment, it's not right."

By:  Andrea Lannom