By Matthew Young, RealWV
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The West Virginia Chamber, this week, released their “scorecard” for the first session of the state’s 86th Legislature. While 70 of West Virginia’s 134 lawmakers received a grade of 80% or higher from the Chamber, 21 of the state’s legislators received a score below 50%, leaving some Republicans to question the Chamber’s commitment to conservative values.
“Make no mistake, the Republicans who scored 100% on the liberal-leaning Chamber of Commerce Scorecard are RINOS (Republican in name only) who have no problem with overtaxing WV businesses and transferring their earnings to out-of-state businesses which did not earn it,” Del. Todd Longanacre, R-Greenbrier, said in a message to RealWV. “They call this being ‘business friendly’ in the name of ‘economic development.’”
According to the West Virginia Chamber’s website, this “scorecard” was created due to, “A desire of Chamber members to help more accurately identify which legislators are or are not pro-jobs and pro-economic development.”
To calculate their scores, the Chamber looked at individual legislator’s voting records concerning 18 bills, and then weighed the results in two separate categories: business engagement and leadership qualities. How receptive a lawmaker is to the opinion of the Chamber, as well as how they “work to advance or hinder the mission of making West Virginia a better place to live, work, and raise a family” ultimately dictates that lawmaker’s final grade.
“I call it straight up socialism, and it is why I voted no on these multi-million dollar transfers of wealth,” Longanacre added. “That is why the Chamber gave me a score of 37%.”
“There are many non-socialist ways to be business friendly,” Longanacre noted. “The RINOS and the Chamber scored 30% or less on pursuing those avenues. The GOP (Grand Old Party – Republicans) must get back to its roots before it’s too late.”
Longanacre’s score of 37.93% ranked him 126th out of 134 members of the state’s legislative-body, and 95th out of the 100-member House of Delegates. With a score of 35.48%, Republican Delegate Todd Kirby of Raleigh County ranked 97th in the House.
Among the 18 bills reviewed by the Chamber was SB 268, a bill which will result in a rate increase for state employees utilizing PEIA (Public Employees Insurance Agency). The Chamber classified SB 268 under their “Good Government Bills” section, and it was triple-weighted in their calculations. Also triple-weighted was HB 2526, which will reduce the personal income tax (PIT) rate by 21.25%. Additional bills included the Distracted Driving Act, the Grid Stabilization and Security Act, and HB 3035 – a bill designed “to ensure that students are reading and doing math at grade-level by the third grade.”
House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, gubernatorial-candidate Del. Moore Capito, R-Kanawha, and Del. Roy Cooper, R-Summers, were among 24 House members who received a score of 100%. Mike Honaker, Greenbrier County’s other Republican Delegate, was scored at 90.37%
“When I vote on a bill, I don’t ever take into consideration how some organization, whether it be the Chamber of Commerce, the NRA (National Rifle Association), or anybody – I don’t sit down before I vote and say, ‘I have to think about how that organization is going to rate me,’” Honaker said, while speaking to the RealWV on Wednesday. “With the Chamber of Commerce, it’s all about jobs and business. And I certainly vote, all the time, in the interests of bringing companies and businesses into West Virginia, and creating jobs and opportunities.”
“If that results in me getting a high rating from the Chamber of Commerce, then so be it,” Honaker added. “But when I vote, I vote my conscience, I vote what’s best for my district, and I vote what’s best for West Virginia. Do you think anybody that knows me is going to look at my voting record and say, ‘That doggone Mike Honaker is a socialist?’”
Republican Delegates Tom Fast and Caleb Hanna, of Fayette and Nicholas counties respectively, each received a score of 70.97%. Del. Chris Toney, R-Raleigh, scored 64.29%, while Heather Tully, Nicholas County’s other Republican Delegate, scored 61.29%. Delegates Brandon Steele and Eric Brooks, both from Raleigh County, received a grade of 56.67% and 53.57% respectively.
“I realize that some of the super-duper ultra-conservatives never want to put their finger on the scales of economics,” Honaker said. “But I do think, sometimes, we have an opportunity, as legislators, to nudge or entice businesses to come here and create jobs, and I don’t think that makes me a socialist. I think that makes me a pretty good legislator, and demonstrates that I am committed to bringing businesses here that will create good jobs.”
On the Senate-side, Senate President Craig Blair received a score of 100%. As did Sen. Vince Deeds, R-Greenbrier, and Sen. Jack David Woodrum, R-Summers. Sen. Rollan Roberts of Raleigh County scored a 70.37%.