CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP & WSAZ) - Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin believes West Virginia should devote future surplus funds toward improving roads, schools and high-speed Internet access.
That proposal is among several the Democrat outlined Wednesday in his State of the State address to the Legislature.
"This is not Washington D.C., where uncontrolled spending has led to uncertainty, a lack of confidence, and a fundamental breakdown in the operation of government," said Tomblin.
Tomblin also wants lawmakers to slash business property taxes for 25 years for any employer that invests at least $3 billion in a new "cracker" plant. This highly sought facility would convert a byproduct from Marcellus shale natural gas wells into a widely used chemical industry compound.
West Virginia's Marcellus field is already attracting business. Tomblin announced that drilling supplier Baker Hughes will create 275 jobs at a $40 million facility in the state.
Tomblin's agenda for the 60-day session also includes mine safety and workplace drug abuse measures.
He proposed some changes as a result of the recent reports into the Upper Big Branch mine disaster.
The legislation he will propose will "enhance rock dusting standards, protect whistle blowers, mandate methane sensors at long walls, and increase pre-shift reviews." Tomblin also seeks to prohibit mines from announcing an inspector is coming.
Following his speech, lawmakers generally approved of his remarks but said they want details.
"We just hope he puts meat in the legislation and this isn't just rhetoric for the voters to hear. We want real meet in these proposals," said Del. Mitch Carmichael (R-Jackson).
Boone County Sen. Ron Stollings (D) said he "thought it was a good speech. I think he's sticking with his message of trying to make West Virginia a business-friendly state, capitalize on our strengths. We're an energy state."
Tomblin's push to eliminate texting while driving and cell phone use without hands-free devices is getting mixed reviews.
One thing he didn't mention: those would be secondary offenses under his plan, meaning you can't be pulled over for doing those things.
Meanwhile, teachers' groups said they could support including student performance as part of teachers' evaluations (another Tomblin proposal) as long as it doesn't constitute a majority of those evaluations. But, those groups also urged caution about the issue.
They were upset the governor's not proposing salary increases for teachers.
"For him to just give lip service and not propose a salary enhancement is just very, very disappointing," said Dale Lee, president of the West Virginia Education Association.
Teachers will get their automatic 1.5 percent pay increases, but teachers' groups point out their pay remains 48th in the nation.
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