The prepared text of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's State of the State address on Wednesday night, as provided by his office:
Mr. Speaker, Mr. President, Members of the Legislature, Members of the Board of Public Works, Justices of the Supreme Court of Appeals, Members of the State Board of Education, distinguished guests, and my fellow West Virginians.
As many of you know, I was raised in the small town of Chapmanville in Logan County. I lived in a modest home with my mom, dad and brother. Everyone knew each other in our neighborhood. Kids played outside until their parents called them in for dinner and most backyards had a thriving garden. In our home, we didn't always have what we wanted, but we always had what we needed, especially at the table because of our garden. We took care of that garden-prepping the soil, planting the seeds in perfect rows and making sure it received enough water.
Three years ago when Joanne and I moved into the Governor's Mansion, I was thrilled to learn it included a small garden. I knew I would be able to cultivate something good, lasting and meaningful for the visitors to the mansion.
I've been a gardener all my life. In fact, my entire family took part in the tremendously hard-but richly rewarding process of canning. Every year our kitchen turned into what looked like a food factory as we canned our harvest. We stocked up on tomatoes, beans, and potatoes for the winter months, recognizing that there may be lean years -- rainy days -- down the road.
I've learned a lot since I first walked into this Capitol nearly 40 years ago as a delegate, then as senator. Since becoming your governor, I've learned even more.
Governing, like gardening, takes planning, patience and foresight.
I've learned how incredibly important it is to be a good steward of the people's money. And how important it is to say yes when you can, and being strong enough to say no when you can't. That's the key to fiscal responsibility.
My fellow West Virginians, make no mistake, the State of our State is strong.
We pay our bills on time and we've invested in our future by continuing to work together as we face future challenges. We will not impose financial burdens on future generations. In fact, our reserve fund is one of the healthiest in the nation.
We did not get here by accident-we got here with planning, patience and foresight.
Our Rainy Day fund has a savings of over $920 million and it has helped protect and improve the state's credit rating for over 20 years.
We have ensured timely and sound pension contributions. Liabilities in the Workers' Compensation program were about $8 billion just nine years ago. By the end of this year, the State's workers' compensation unfunded liability is expected to be less than $500 million dollars.
We have not had a general tax increase since 1996.
Unlike other states that had to drain their reserve funds during the recent recession, West Virginia did not have to borrow one dime.
Because of the work we have done during the past three years, and through the work we will continue to do together, we will cultivate a better future for all West Virginians. We will create positive opportunities for our seniors, our veterans, our students, our families, our businesses and our communities.
We continue to experience positive change across the Mountain State and have set in motion many initiatives that will not fully bloom until long after my term has ended-but the hope of a fruitful harvest keeps us working hard each and every day.
For example, in October, I led a 13-day investment mission to Europe with stops in Spain, France, Germany, Italy and Switzerland. As you know, jobs are my number one priority. I will go anywhere and meet with anyone to bring good paying jobs to West Virginia.
During that trip my team met with a number of prospects-several have committed to investing in West Virginia. One of the highlights of this trip was my stop at Pietro Fiorentini in Italy.
During my visit, I met with Robert Moorhead of Bridgeport and Michael Powell of Parkersburg, both recent WVU engineering grads hired by the company to help run its West Virginia operations. They were in Italy as a part of their 4-month training program. These two young men are living examples of why we made our trip and why we make job opportunities our highest priority. Robert and Michael are two young West Virginians who have worked hard, earned degrees in engineering, and are now using their education to create good paying jobs here in the Mountain State.
My thanks goes out to the Italian company for placing its trust in West Virginia and West Virginians like Robert and Michael who are with us here in the chamber this evening.
Robert and Michael, you are our future. Gentlemen, please stand so we may thank you for showing the world that West Virginians can compete.
West Virginia is a strong international competitor. Production from manufacturing sectors - plastics, machinery, chemicals, aerospace, medical products and automotive - grew substantially. Exports have increased from $9 billion in 2011 to over $11 billion last year and outpaced the national growth rate.
From the first day of my administration, I've made it a priority to take advantage of the vast resources of the Marcellus and Utica Shale reserves. And we must be prepared for big opportunities when they arise.
At my request, the Legislature enacted important new legislation to provide a stable and predictable regulatory framework for oil and gas producers. This important bi-partisan legislation is recognized as a model for horizontal drilling in the region. Our law led to new investments in drilling and infrastructure in West Virginia, spurring job growth and increasing the tax base for counties and schools.
The resources of this state need to be used here and not piped somewhere else. Therefore, at my request, the legislature passed a bill to encourage Marcellus-to-Manufacturing investments to foster the development of a revitalized high tech chemical industry, with enduring high-paying jobs.
I'm pleased to announce our shared vision is paying off. We have created unprecedented opportunity for generations of West Virginians. Project ASCENT, the cracker, is a defining moment for economic development in the Mountain State. Odebrecht believes Wood County is the best location for the potential development of an ethane cracker and three polyethylene plants.
Wood County provides a unique opportunity to construct a cracker that maximizes our abundant Marcellus and Utica Shale reserves. The construction phase of this project alone is expected to create approximately 10,000 jobs. This cracker is a game changer.
Other recent international achievements include the $20 million expansion of the Sogefi Group that will soon add 250 jobs to the product line at its Prichard, West Virginia plant.
Serving new markets for coal, Carbonyx, a Texas-based company, will invest tens of millions of dollars in a new Jackson County plant. This new development will create 60 jobs in its first phase. The plant will make a carbon alloy replacement for coke, a key ingredient for steelmaking. And best of all, Carbonyx will use West Virginia coal in its manufacturing process.
To keep our coal industry alive and well-and I promise you we will-we must continue to seek out new markets and uses for it, while doing what we can to help the industry reduce costs, and be more productive, efficient, safe and environmentally friendly.
While I will never back down from the EPA because of its misguided policies on coal, we should remind ourselves a challenge doesn't always lead to confrontation. Last summer I sat across the table from EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and shared our story. We have been hit hard. But with planning and perseverance I believe the obstacles can be overcome.
Gestamp, an automotive stamping plant in South Charleston, continues to grow, having expanded several times since opening in 2012. Gestamp continues to prove that government can be an effective business partner and has announced its investment of $100 million and a minimum of 400 jobs in the next five years.
This year marks the 25th year since our Development Office established roots in Japan. And today, 20 Japanese companies continue to invest in West Virginia - including internationally recognized Toyota, Hino Motors, and NGK Spark Plugs. These companies have achieved success, in part, because of the strong work ethic, dedication, and productivity of our world class workforce.
This, combined with the development of the Marcellus Shale, and prospects for value added products, along with growth in small business, demonstrate we are moving forward.
As we celebrate these new investments, there are other types of investments we often take for granted: investments in water and sewer infrastructure, schools, airports, rail, intermodal facilities, and broadband. Used by all of us, roads and bridges are one of the biggest investments and they come at a cost.
This Legislature, in a bipartisan fashion, had the wisdom and foresight to enact two pieces of legislation last year that are already paying off for our State Road Fund. The continuation of Design-Build and Public-Private Partnerships is allowing the Division of Highways to be more innovative in the construction of our roads and bridges.
While we have reason to celebrate the huge successes we have made in the areas of construction, manufacturing and energy development, we must never forget that West Virginia's small businesses make up 96 percent of all employers in the state. They are the cornerstone of our growing economy. This is why we must continue taking steps to maintain our status as a business friendly state. We can attract more jobs and develop a broader tax base to meet our demands for goods and services-without raising taxes. We've planted the seeds for small business by phasing out the business franchise tax next year, cutting the corporate income tax and reducing workers compensation rates.
West Virginia is attracting new and diversified jobs.
Investors from across the Mountain State know how important it is to support small business and entrepreneurs. The Angel Investment Fund was recently established by investors, or "angels," who have pooled their money to invest in private companies which demonstrate the potential for sustainable growth in sales, a suitable return to investors and jobs for West Virginians. Their support will provide an important source of capital for growing firms and will assist companies with the potential to do great things for the people of West Virginia.
Last week we lost one of West Virginia's most outstanding benefactors. Buck Harless gave to his community and to our state a blueprint for a life well lived. Buck knew it was the small community based businesses, and the young entrepreneurs-like himself-that could truly make the largest gains for our state and her people.
I am encouraged by our small business owners putting their passion into new services and products. Rocky Brook Sinkers out of Morgantown is a great example. Dwight and Brook Pauley got the idea for their business on a fishing trip. The father and son were frustrated after fishing a trout stream that was known for snags. Their sinkers would snag ... and the fish would swim away. A good outcome for the trout -- but not for Dwight and Brook.
Because of their love for fishing -- and actually catching fish -- the two worked to create a limestone fishing sinker that wouldn't snag. Today, you can find RockyBrook Sinkers in your local fishing stores, and at Cabela's, Dick's Sporting Goods and Walmart.
Dwight and Brook, please stand so we may recognize you and congratulate you on your tremendous success!
One of the most important keys to our growth and economic success is our educated workforce. We must have skilled workers to fill jobs. To reach this goal, education is the number one qualifier for the jobs of today and tomorrow.
All plants in the garden must have healthy stems to survive and produce vibrant and healthy harvests. The stem is the main delivery system for any plant. Without the stem the plant dies and with it so does the hope for any chance of prosperity. And, so it is with STEM -- an acronym: S-T-E-M -- a word you are going to hear a lot about in the weeks and months ahead. STEM stands for: Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Emphasis on STEM in education will prepare our children for tomorrow's jobs. It will develop skilled workers and professionals for qualified employment.
Nationwide there is a shortage of workers with backgrounds in science, technology, engineering and math. West Virginia is no different. We have listened to those employers who tell us that we must increase the number of STEM workers.
Many of these workers can be educated in our career and technical schools. To make it easier for students to pursue a technical education without having to shuttle between career centers and high schools, I included funding in the budget to locate math and English teachers in our career centers. I want to minimize obstacles for our students who pursue a career-technical education.
In addition, I am reconstituting the STEM Commission. The Commission will be charged with promoting student interest in these subjects, to make the most of federal STEM initiatives and to expand math and science education beyond the classroom. Our children will struggle to succeed without that solid stem-the foundation of a good education.