Our Children Our Future campaign rolls out 2017 legislative agenda for working families, children in W.Va.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Statewide organizations have a dozen legislative agenda items for state lawmakers to consider during the 2017 Regular Legislative Session.

The Our Children Our Future campaign, along with other partners, met Wednesday in Charleston to announce those items one week before the session begins Feb. 8

The agenda items include:

  1. Stop punishing work and marriage
  2. Open 300 rural community centers
  3. Protect West Virginia’s drinking water
  4. Second chance for employement
  5. Create jobs through energy efficiency
  6. Make sure to have classrooms, not courtrooms
  7. To Stay in the State Act
  8. Earned income tax credits
  9. Advocated for agriculture jobs for Veterans
  10. Protect higher education like the Promise Scholarship
  11. Focus on equal pay/equal treatment in the workplace
  12. Prevent drug abuse for every child

Governor Jim Justice will give his first State of the State Address Wednesday night where he could present nearly $400 to $600 million dollars in budget cuts to fill the state’s massive budget deficit of about $500 million.

Karen Williams, chair of the Our Children Our Future Campaign, said cutting programs is not the answer.

“It’s just going to cut jobs, it’s just once again going to cut services and people are going to leave our state and go some place else where they can receive a better lifestyle,” Williams told MetroNews.

The state has been losing population over the years. The campaign is working to keep children in West Virginia.

“We’ve got to be proactive and to make it a comfortable environment that is pro-industry, pro-working, to have good jobs and healthcare and a healthy environment. It can be done,” Williams said.

During Wednesday’s press conference, campaign member Steven Smith spoke out against potential cuts.

“When we hear our folks saying they need to cut child care, they need to cut education, we need to tell it what it is — it’s a lie. It is an absolute bold faced lie,” Smith said, who also serves as the director of Healthy Kids and Family Coalition. “What they’re trying to convince us of is this is just the political reality.”

Smith said he supports raising taxes in order to keep important programs in place for children.

“When you ask every day citizens is it worth it to raise taxes on soda pop or is it okay to go back to our tax structure from 10 years ago? We say yes it is because we aren’t ready to mortgage our kids’ future to solve a little political scrimmage at the Capitol,” he said.

The campaign is also calling on federal and state leaders to make sure the Affordable Care Act is not repealed without a replacement plan.

“Don’t kick us in the teeth again when it comes to the 225,000 of us who are receiving health care through the Affordable Care Act and to the 12,000 working families who are on the chopping block for child care development,” Smith said.

Our Children Our Future is a diverse coalition of 177 statewide groups working to eliminate child poverty in West Virginia.

Partners for these agenda items include the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, the West Virginia Community Development Hub, Protect WV and Generation West Virginia.

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