EYEWITNESS LOCAL NEWSBACK TO WORK
from Eyewitness News Online
Lawmakers Back In Charleston, Focusing On Jobs And Economy
Reported by: Kallie Cart
Videographer: Troy Morgan, John Tincher
Web Producer: Kallie Cart
Reported: Jan. 11, 2012 6:32 PM EST
Updated: Jan. 11, 2012 6:45 PM EST
Charleston , Kanawha County , West Virginia
The 2012 legislative session is underway in Charleston. This time around, lawmakers say legislation that will help create jobs and help the economy recover from the recession should be the focus of the session.
Lawmakers also plan to tackle the state's unfunded pension problem, OPEB. PEIA recently cut out $5-billion which will help solve the issue.
"That's the last major financial albatross we have around the state's neck and if we can get that addressed I think our financial plate will be in order," Senate President Jeff Kessler says.
Legislators are hopeful once the pension problem is out of the way, they can focus on jobs and the economy.
"We want to send the message in West Virginia and out of West Virginia that we are ready to do business," House Speaker Rick Thompson says.
Republicans are again pushing for an appellate court in the state, they say to make the judicial system more business friendly. They also want to eliminate taxes on business machinery and inventory, something they call job killers, its a bill that has passed the house before.
"It's so bad of a tax that when the state tries to attract businesses they often try to work around it, if it's so bad you have to work around it, then maybe that's a tax you should get rid of it," House Minority Leader Tim Armstead says.
Kessler is also hopeful lawmakers will tackle the drug problem and jail overcrowding, which he says go hand-in-hand. He's recommending treatment and rehabilitation programs but he says he doesn't think the state can avoid building a new prison. A new prison is estimated to cost $200-million.
"I think we're probably going to have to [build a new prison] because we are stressed to the max," Kessler says. He also adds that without treatment programs jails are only serving as "warehouses" for inmates who are being released and falling into the same problems.
When it comes to state employees and teachers, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say they don't know if there is room in the budget this year for pay raises.
Legislators must also fix the congressional redistricting map which was ruled unconstitutional. The deadline has been lifted and lawmakers say they may wait to see if the US Supreme Court will hear their appeal before they tackle the issue.
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