Welfare-to-work needs business owners to succeed
The idea behind the Welfare-to-Work program (getting
welfare recipients into paying jobs) is certainly a great concept. But
without the participation of businesses and individuals, it remains nothing
more than a nice idea.
It's for that reason that two area women deserve
credit. Sharon Weaver is the Welfare-to-Work coordinator for the West Virginia
Small Business Administration in Clarksburg. Barbara Clutter is owner of
Ra-Mar Florist. Both were recently honored by the SBA for making the Welfare-to-Work
program a success. Weaver won the program's Associate of the Year award,
while Clutter was honored as Small Business Owner of the Year.
A quick glance at their work with the Welfare-to-Work
leaves no doubt of just how deserving they are for such recognition.
In 1998, Weaver got an astounding 757 small businesses
throughout the state to commit to hiring retrained welfare recipients.
And in the first three months of this year, another 254 made the same commitment.
For her part, Clutter hired seven welfare recipients to work for for Senior
Care of North Central West Virginia in Nutter Fort, and another eight to
work at her florist shop.
That's not all. Clutter also initiated adult day
care for the elderly and child respite programs, both of which utilize
the work of welfare recipients. In addition, the child respite program
can also be used by welfare parents trying to obtain jobs. Clutter will
sent workers to into their homes to look after their children while they
are on job interviews, working night shifts or other related activities.
Making the transition from being a welfare recipient
to being employed can't be easy, but it's extremely important.
According to national statistics, 3.3 million people have dropped from
welfare rolls since 1996. Through the efforts of individuals like Weaver
and Clutter, that number will undoubtedly continue to grow.
Law officers not the only ones bristling at pay
raises for judges
It must be difficult for city, county and state law
enforcement officers in West Virginia to swallow the $10,000 annual pay
raise given to 67 circuit judges and Supreme Court justices. Law officers
at every level will be lucky to get increases equal to the cost-of-living
The five Supreme Court justices will see their salaries
increase from $85,000 to $95,000 and the 62 circuit judges will enjoy an
increase from $80,000 to $90,000. That looks pretty hefty when state troopers
are getting $2,000 each and city police officers and county sheriff deputies
across the state are probably receiving an average less than $1,000.
But the action should anger more than just law enforcement
officers. It should make every taxpayer mad. At face value, the Legislature
added $670,000 in new expense to taxpayers with their action to give raises
to judges. But we all know you cannot take anything at face value when
it comes to the West Virginia Legislature.
The real cost is $11 million. That is because
of the sweeping impact these raises have on the state's judicial retirement
plan- a plan that already had an unfunded liability of $41 million before
the Legislature's latest action.
The action by the legislature raises the retirement
benefits for all the currently retired judges and their surviving spouses.
That is because retirees' pension benefits are 75 percent of active justices
and judges' salaries. That means the retirement benefit for retired Supreme
Court justices increases from $63,750 to $71,250. The pension for retired
circuit judges will go up from $60,000 to $67,500.
How much sense does it make to add that kind of
burden on future taxpayers when all of the state employee pension programs
are underfunded? The Teachers Retirement System has an unfunded liability
in the neighborhood of $3 billion. The Public Employees Retirement System
unfunded liability is at about $150 million.
We would have rather seen $11 million go into upgrading
pay and bolstering manpower at every level of law enforcement in the state
rather than see an already sweet pension for retired judges get even sweeter.
Of course, maybe the money shouldn't have been spent at all.
Telegram editorial board member