The "Our Children, Our Future" symposium last week brought several ideas to the table that proponents argue could improve the lives of children in poverty.
Dick Wittburg from the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department in Parkersburg suggested that great strides in childhood dental health could be made with one simple change. He suggested that West Virginia petition the federal government to allow it to exclude sugary soda pop drinks from approved food stamp purchases.
He noted that sugar did not harm teeth as much as concentrated citric acid often found in the beverages.
Others argued that the state needed to raise its minimum wage above that of the federal level. This would obviously have a detrimental impact. Small businesses with thin profit margins would either cut employees or go out of business entirely because they are unable to pay more.
The state could also offer a scaled down version of the federal Earned Income Tax Credit. Families with children earning under certain incomes qualify for more rebates on their income taxes. This program, started under President Ronald Reagan, rewards working families with children. Senator Mike Hall (R-Putnam) noted that such a program would likely cost the state around $37 million per year.
Such symposiums are valuable. Experts can bring ideas to Charleston to be debated by legislators and others. Despite the fact that some of these plans could be seriously detrimental, it is positive that the state provides a venue where they can be debated.