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Fact-check: Was West Virginia the Eighth Fastest Growing State Economy Last Year?

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Along U.S. Route 19 in southern West Virginia, row after row of pipe is stockpiled in preparation for construction of the 300-mile Mountain Valley Pipeline, one of several major natural gas pipelines that will crisscross the state as the industry booms. Photo: F. Brian Ferguson/Charleston Gazette-Mail

In a West Virginia MetroNews debate before he won another term in Congress, U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., defended President Donald Trump’s handling of the economy, saying the state had benefited disproportionately.

“Last year we had the eighth fastest-growing economy in the country in West Virginia,” he said, responding to Kendra Fershee, his Democratic opponent.

Is McKinley’s statement accurate?

Earlier this year, data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis — the federal office that calculates economic growth in the states — showed that West Virginia ranked 11th in inflation-adjusted growth in gross domestic product between 2016 and 2017, with a 2.6 percent increase. That’s not the same as eighth, but it’s close.

That data, however, was subsequently updated, and the newer data is less favorable to West Virginia.

In the most recent calculations, West Virginia actually ranked 19th out of the 50 states in year-over-year change in GDP, with a 2.2 percent increase. So West Virginia was in the top half of the ratings table, but well below the eighth-place finish that McKinley cited.

A more impressive measurement for the state was one that McKinley didn’t mention — the increase in GDP per capita, a statistic that adjusts the size of growth to account for a state’s population.

Using that statistic, West Virginia actually ranked in a tie for first with Washington state. Both notched a 2.9 percent increase between 2016 and 2017.

 

Analysts say the expansion of West Virginia’s mining sector accounted for the lion’s share of the state’s GDP growth.

It’s also worth noting that a reason for West Virginia’s high rates of per-capita GDP growth is population loss — not a positive sign for the state.

McKinley’s office did not respond to an inquiry.

Our ruling

McKinley said, “Last year we had the eighth fastest-growing economy in the country in West Virginia.”

The final data actually shows that West Virginia ranked quite a bit lower, at 19th. The state fared better using a different statistic that McKinley didn’t mention — per-capita GDP growth, where it was tied for first.

We rate the statement Mostly False.

This story was originally published by PolitiFact. 

Fact Check

Fact-check: Does West Virginia have the Nation’s Fourth-worst Poverty Rate?

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This March 15, 2018 photo shows Moundsville, W.Va., from a nearby farm. Photo: Paul Vernon/AP Photo

In a Nov. 8 op-ed in the Charleston Gazette-Mail, Democratic state Sen. Mike Romano expressed concern about the state of the West Virginia economy.

“Our poverty rate, which has not declined since the Great Recession, was 19.1 percent, the fourth-highest in the country, according to the U.S. Census Bureau,” Romano wrote.

Are Romano’s statistics about West Virginia poverty accurate? We took a closer look.

We turned to official U.S. Census Bureau data for poverty by state and looked at 2017, the most recent year for which data was available. While there are two main Census Bureau sources for poverty statistics — the Current Population Survey and the American Community Survey — experts we consulted with agreed that the American Community Survey data was better for a statewide statistic because it has a much larger sample size.

Romano was correct that West Virginia had the fourth-highest poverty rate of any state in 2017, at 19.1 percent.

Here are the five states with the highest poverty rates that year:

1. Mississippi: 19.8 percent

2. Louisiana: 19.7 percent

3. New Mexico: 19.7 percent

4. West Virginia: 19.1 percent

5. Kentucky: 17.2 percentOur ruling

Romano said the poverty rate in West Virginia “was 19.1 percent, the fourth-highest in the country.”

He’s right on both counts, so we rate his statement True.

This story was originally published by PolitiFact.

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Fact Check

Fact-check: Have Median Incomes in West Virginia Not Risen in a Decade?

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Minden, West Virginia. Photo: Brittany Patterson/ WVPB

In a Nov. 8 op-ed in the Charleston Gazette-Mail, Democratic state Sen. Mike Romano offered a litany of troubling statistics about West Virginia’s economy and urged the creation of “a real economic comeback” in West Virginia.

One of Romano’s statistics was that, “adjusting for inflation, West Virginia’s median household income has not grown in a decade.”

We fact-checked two other statements from his op-ed that turned out to be True.

Is the latest one on stagnant income correct? We turned to official federal data from the Census Bureau to find out.

That data shows that in 2007, the inflation-adjusted median household income in West Virginia was $49,885 — the culmination of a decade and a half of consistent gains above the rate of inflation.

But one decade later, the 2007 figure remains the state’s highest median income level since the statistic was first recorded in 1984. Over that decade, the median income fell by 9 percent when factoring in inflation. (Data for 2018 is not available yet.)

The nation as a whole has seen some income stagnation since 1999, but nothing as severe as West Virginia experienced. Nationally, median incomes have risen every year since 2014 and hit an all-time high in 2017.

Comparing the specific years Romano used — 2007 to 2017 — the national figure rose by 3 percent.

Our ruling

Romano wrote that “adjusting for inflation, West Virginia’s median household income has not grown in a decade.” West Virginia’s inflation-adjusted median income has dropped 9 percent in the last decade, even as the national figure has risen by 3 percent. We rate his statement True.

This story was originally published by PolitiFact.

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Fact Check

Fact-check: Does West Virginia Spend Half its Budget on K-12 Education?

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Tyler Consolidated High School social studies teacher Susan Gilbert. Photo: Ashton Marra/100 Days in Appalachia

Is almost half of West Virginia’s state budget devoted to K-12 education? That’s what West Virginia state Senate Minority Leader Roman Prezioso, a Democrat, said.

“Fifty percent of our (West Virginia) budget was for lower education,” Prezioso said during a panel discussion at West Virginia University on Nov. 29, 2018.

We looked at the most recent budget report released by the state to determine whether Prezioso was accurate.

According to the most recent West Virginia executive budget document, the state spent $1.919 billion on “education” in fiscal year 2017, the most recent year for which actual expenditures are currently available. (This category does not include university spending. Expenditures for “higher education” totaled $392.9 million.)

Total expenditures for fiscal year 2017 were about $4.2 billion. That means K-12 education accounted for about 46 percent of the budget.

As for the recommendations for fiscal year 2019, education spending would account for 44.26 percent of overall spending.

After the panel, PolitiFact West Virginia asked Prezioso to clarify what he had meant, and he said that the 50 percent figure was an approximation.

Our ruling  

At the panel, Prezioso said that “50 percent of our (West Virginia) budget was for lower education.”

We found that it was 46 percent for 2017 and a recommended 44 percent for 2019. Prezioso was off by a few percentage points, but he was in the ballpark, so we rate his statement Mostly True.

This story was originally published by PolitiFact.

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