Wednesday, January 18, 2006

State Central Planning Fails Again: $220 Million "Economic Development Grants" Yield Less than 1,000 Jobs

this is an audio post - click to play

The Ruling Party still doesn't get it. Fifteen years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, West Virginia's ruling elites continue to bet the future of our state on the ability of government to centrally plan the economy.

Four years ago--in what was then viewed as a blatant taxpayer giveaway designed to minimize the first round of GOP gains in the Legislature as our campaign to eventually take control began--the Legislature approved the issue of over $200 million in revenue bonds backed by the video poker machines for "economic development grants." These grants were touted as the latest great idea to stimulate our state's anemic economy.

Today, the Charleston Daily Mail reports that just over half of the grants have actually been spent and less than 1,000 new jobs have been created. $134.4 million of state money has produced 884 permanent, full-time jobs--almost half of which are at the Fort Henry Industrial Park in Wheeling, home of Cabela's. Temporary construction jobs created by the grants generated less than one-fifth of the total payrolls predicted by labor unions that supported the grant program.

One has to ask whether these continuing follies by the Legislature and the Ruling Party are the result of economic illiteracy or simple narcissism and illusions of self-grandeur. Is the majority party really so economically illiterate they believe endless government cash infusions into the economy will eventually spark meaningful economic growth or are they so egotistic they could not bear the loss of seeming self-importance should they ever decide to implement the Ronald Reagan model of lower taxes, less regulation, and less government interference in the economy that has made the United States as a whole the world's greatest economy over the last 25 years? I could believe either.

Real, sustained economic growth will come to West Virginia when our public policy shifts to a model of lower taxes, less regulation, less lawsuit abuse, and an efficient government that acknowledges its limited role in the economy and focuses on its core responsibilities to the people. A good first start toward this end would include completely abolishing the food tax and either completely abolishing or implementing a quick scheduled repeal of the business franchise tax during the current legislative session. Step 2 would be for West Virginians to elect a Republican majority to both houses of the Legislature this November.