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 index.
    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.

Terry Horne
Telegram editorial board member



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Copyright Clarksburg Publishing Company 1999