Policy Changes to Celebrate on West Virginia’s 160th

Wonderful Policy Changes to Celebrate in West Virginia

On Tuesday, June 20th, our beloved West Virginia celebrates 160 years of statehood. While this year’s celebration may lack the same pomp and circumstance of 2013’s sesquicentennial, there’s plenty over the last 10 years to be excited about.


As a policy organization, we’re keen to focus on that. Over the last decade, there’s no denying the changes. In 2014, political power in the legislature changed parties for the first time in over 80 years. In the years since, West Virginia has seen transformational policy changes that are the envy of many states throughout the country. 2016 – right to work. 2019 – finally allowing for charter schools. 2021 – at the time, the nation’s most expansive and inclusive education savings account program called the Hope Scholarship. 2023 – tax cuts and partial certificate of need reform.


In real world terms, these policies translate into more freedom. Freedom in your workplace, where your kids receive their education, how health care professionals provide and you can access care, and in your budget by keeping more of the money you earned in the first place. In other words, there are a lot of ways that it’s easier to live your life and pursue your passions in Wild & Wonderful, West Virginia.


People Are Changing Their Opinions About the Mountain State

While I lack the honor of being a West Virginian by birth, I’ve been lucky enough to call the Mountain State home since ’91 — with the exception of those few years I was in the outskirts of “The Swamp” pursuing my passion for economics at George Mason University. I’ve always been proud to call this state home, but it’s a recent and lovely phenomenon that folks elsewhere are looking to West Virginia for inspiration and seeking the advice of our leaders.


What a mightily refreshing change from jokes about shoes, teeth, cousins, or something else that makes you roll your eyes, right? Or a well-meaning but misplaced inquiry about how close we are to Richmond.


But it’s not just those of us who were already here noticing the upward trajectory West Virginia is on. These changes are attracting new residents. And they are bringing distant sons and daughters to a homecoming they never expected beyond holidays and other family gatherings. Perhaps most exciting of all, these changes are giving our youth the opportunities to stay close to who and what they love as they build their lives.


Free-Market Policy Changes Make It Easier to Choose to Stay

Frankly, I’m one of those stories. In 2011, when I left to start grad school, I expected that my career would lead somewhere farther away from these beloved hills and mountains. Instead, opportunity presented itself essentially right in my childhood backyard with the Cardinal Institute.


Well over six years into my time with Cardinal, I am tremendously grateful to be home in West Virginia. I’m a short drive from the house and the neighborhood I grew up in, and my parents still call home. I get to enjoy regular meet ups and quality time with friends I’ve had for 20+ years. That is much better than hurried lunches or a quick cocktail in the midst of all the other events. I don’t have settle for mailing cards or sending video messages to my best friend’s kids on their birthdays. Instead, Auntie Jessi comes to the party and brings the fun!


And this summer, I won’t have to drive 5-6 hours to enjoy the West Virginia Day festivities. It’s maybe 5 minutes, tops.


Jessi Troyan is the Director of Policy & Research at the Cardinal Institute for West Virginia Policy.