Our Story

There is nothing preordained about West Virginia’s lack of prosperity.

For generations, West Virginia has been an object of ridicule, pity, and even curiosity. Its economy and people have been among the poorest in the United States for well over a century. An “island” of poverty in the wealthiest country in the world, West Virginia’s brighter future depends on a new paradigm.

This new way of looking at the world will be fueled by new ideas and a philosophy built on innovation, human flourishing, and a recognition that freedom is the greatest alleviation of poverty the world has ever seen. Our philosophy believes in the entrepreneur, the tinkerer in the garage, and asserts that small government makes more room for individuals to pursue personal fulfillment.

The Cardinal Institute for West Virginia Policy was founded by a group of West Virginians in 2014 to usher in this vision and lay the intellectual groundwork for West Virginia’s brighter future. Cardinal’s founders believed that West Virginia must get the government out of the way. Free from the unnecessary burdens of government intrusion, bureaucracy, arbitrary regulation, and excessive taxes, Mountaineers can craft a brighter future for themselves.

Cardinal’s founders felt that this new paradigm needed an organization whose sole mission was to create, research, communicate, and popularize freedom-enhancing ideas. Cardinal hired its first employee in the fall of 2015 and has been deeply engaged in West Virginia’s marketplace of ideas ever since.

A Brighter Future for West Virginia

Cardinal Institute Key Moments Timeline

Embark on a journey through the growth of Cardinal Institute with our interactive timeline. From our humble beginnings to our current impact, trace the milestones, achievements, and transformative moments that define our mission-driven organization. Explore the progression of our initiatives, influential leaders, and the significant contributions we’ve made to building the West Virginia Miracle. Delve into the narrative of our growth, innovation, and commitment to shaping a better future. Join us on this dynamic visual journey as we continue to make history.

2014

September/October

Articles of Incorporation Written and Approved

November

Cardinal Awarded Nonprofit Status

2015

September

Garrett Ballengee joins the Cardinal Institute as first employee and Executive Director

2016

January

Incorporation Articles Approved; Cardinal Hosts Right-to-Word Town Hall

February

West Virginia Becomes 26th Right-to-Work State with Passage of SB1

March

Cardinal Releases Study on Potential Impacts of Income Tax Cut

September

First ESA Paper in WV History published by Cardinal/Jonathan Butcher

October

Cardinal receives award for exposing wasteful spending in West Virginia with ‘Wild & Wasteful’ report.

2017

January

Jessi Troyan joins the Cardinal Institute as the First Development Director and second employee

February

First ESA Bill (HB2689) Introduced in WV History

March

Cardinal Begins Public-Facing Efforts on Certificate-of-Need (CON) Laws

2018

January

Cardinal debuts NSCW Event in Harper’s Ferry, WV; ESA Bill Introduced

February

Cardinal Publishes Second ESA Research Paper (Special Needs)

July

Amanda Kieffer joins Cardinal Institute as Communications Associate, initiating communications, outreach, and marketing endeavors.

2019

June

Charter Schools Legal in West Virginia for First Time with Passage of HB 206

November

Cardinal Institute wins top prize at Atlas Network’s Smart Bets competition in NYC; Communications Associate reaches finals in John Blundell Elevator Pitch Competition.

2020

September

Cardinal Institute launches Forgotten America podcast spotlighting rural culture and community solutions.

2021

March

Cardinal urges CON suspension amid COVID crisis; Historic Hope Scholarship ESA & Telehealth reforms signed into law.

Summer

Cardinal plans statewide healthcare reform tour on CON; Finalist for Bob Williams award for Hope Scholarship passage.

August

Cardinal wins State Policy Network’s Communications Excellence Award for Hope Scholarship storytelling.

September

Cardinal Announced as Finalist for Worldwise Templeton Freedom Award, One of Six Global Finalists

2022

January

Cardinal releases groundbreaking research paper ‘Convicting CON’; Announces inaugural state coalition advocating for CON repeal

May

More Than 3,000 Students Enroll in Hope Scholarship ESA Program

June

Garrett Ballengee, Cardinal Institute’s Executive Director, honored with the buckley Award from America’s Future

October

West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals Rules Hope Scholarship Constitutional

November

Cardinal participates in Atlas Network’s global Think Tank Shark Tank competition in NYC

2023

January

Cardinal Announces “Tax Reform Week”

February

Cardinal Participates in Governor’s Roundtable on Tax Reform

March

West Virginia achieves landmark CON repeal; Enacts historic income tax cut.

August

Cardinal wins Bob Williams Award for biggest home state win with historic tax cut; Finalist for PIE Network’s Eddies Award for defending Hope Scholarship program.

October

Cardinal’s Breaking Barriers report marks its inaugural dive into Criminal Justice Reform, focusing on obstacles between occupational licensing and the justice system.

November

First Issue of Liberi magazine is published by the Cardinal Institute

December

Benefit Cliffs and Disincentives for Work published, marking Cardinal’s first research project on social safety net reform

2024

January

Dignity Project Listening Research Report released

February

Cardinal hosts “Regulatory Reform Week” to highlight the need for regulatory reform in West Virginia

Newsletter

The Cardinal Institute for West Virginia Policy works alongside Mountaineers to build a West Virginia Miracle founded on economic freedom, education freedom, worker freedom, and a culture of freedom enshrined in the state motto: Mountaineers are Always Free.

To keep up with our work to promote free markets, individual liberty, and
limited government in West Virginia, please sign up for our email list.

Thank you for helping us build the West Virginia Miracle!

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