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West Virginia Governor Proposes $80M for University R&D, Workforce Training

January 16, 2008

Using one-time lottery surplus funds available for fiscal year 2008, Gov. Joe Manchin wants to invest $80 million in world-class research and specialized job training to propel the state toward a knowledge-based economy. The proposal was unveiled to lawmakers during Gov. Manchin’s State-of-the-State Address last week in conjunction with the fiscal year 2009 budget recommendation.

Citing a skilled labor shortage for West Virginia companies, Gov. Manchin said that to improve the workforce, the state must target higher education and workforce development investments. The governor’s plan, dubbed “Bucks for Jobs” is twofold. First, he proposes the state create a $50 million education research trust fund modeled after Kentucky’s successful “Bucks for Brains” initiative. The state’s leading research universities – West Virginia University and Marshall University – are the proposed recipients of the endowment, which will require a dollar-for-dollar match by private donations. Funds will be used to simulate world-class R&D and attract venture capital, which will eventually lead to jobs in emerging, high tech and high-wage industries, Gov. Manchin said during his address.

The second part of the plan invests $30 million in two advanced technical centers that will serve as training centers to meet the specialized needs of businesses. Federal and state workforce training programs will be coordinated into a single and comprehensive “Training Bucks” program under the plan. Additional recommendations for spending surplus lottery funds include $7.1 million to expand Allied Health programs at community and technical colleges and $2 million for the College Foundation of West Virginia to create a single source of information for preparing for and financing a college education.

To retain college graduates at a higher rate, Gov. Manchin is proposing the Promise Board develop a rule requiring recipients of the Promise Scholarship to work in the state following graduation as a condition of not having to pay back the loan. The governor’s FY 09 budget recommendation includes an additional $816,000 to the Promise Scholarship program and $660,000 to the Higher Education Grant Program to meet the statutory requirement of 2 percent growth.

The West Virginia High Tech Consortium Foundation, a technology organization focusing on the statewide, regional and national high-technology business sector, is slated to receive $235,783 under the governor’s general fund budget recommendation.

Gov. Manchin also addressed energy initiatives during his state-of-the-state speech, saying that he is committed to working toward development of clean coal technologies and the construction of clean coal power and fuel liquefaction plants.

The governor’s FY 2009 Budget Recommendation is available from the State Budget Office at: http://www.wvbudget.gov/

West Virginia