- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:

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June 29

The Journal on state highway funding:

Give West Virginia legislators and Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin credit. At a time when state revenues are declining, they somehow managed to increase the state Division of Highways budget.

Nearly all the attention to fiscal matters during the past few months has been to the state’s general revenue budget. That was not inappropriate; the $4.1 billion-plus general revenue budget includes funding for most state programs.

But the separate State Road Fund is more important in a way: Anyone driving Mountain State highways, bouncing in and out of potholes and noticing unrepaired slips, recognizes the importance of that budget.

During the current fiscal year, which ends in just a few days, the State Road Fund budget totaled $1.186 billion. The most critical component is the Division of Highways budget, at $1.139 billion.

Next year’s State Road Fund, which goes into effect next Friday, totals $1.255 billion. The Division of Highways will get $1.209 billion of that.

So good for the governor and legislators, for finding more money for highways.

Unfortunately, the difference, about $60 million more, may not even make up for inflation. Though the price of oil, the primary ingredient of asphalt, is lower than a few years ago, the paving material costs substantially more.

No one can accuse legislators of dodging controversy during the past two years. They have tackled several important issues, not the least of which was this year’s General Revenue Fund budget.

In finally finding a formula acceptable to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and a majority of both houses of the Legislature, lawmakers’ biggest challenge was tax increases. Especially during an election year, no one wants to take the blame for higher taxes.

That may be one reason why no one in Charleston has been eager to tackle the problem of road funding. Analysts say the state is hundreds of millions of dollars a year short of having enough to handle pressing needs for highways and bridges.

Still, at some point - perhaps early next year after a new governor has been inaugurated - legislators need to tackle the issue of road funding. Next spring, as West Virginia motorists are dodging a new crop of winter potholes, might be an appropriate time.

Online:

http://journal-news.net

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June 29

The Herald-Dispatch on student exercise in West Virginia:

It’s not often that West Virginia is listed in the vanguard of healthy lifestyles, but some recognition in that vein recently came to the Mountain State.

Earlier this month, West Virginia was singled out for becoming the first state in the nation to have all of its public elementary schools signed up to participate in the Let’s Move! Active Schools program. That’s a nationwide initiative championed by first lady Michelle Obama to promote physical activity among the nation’s schoolchildren. During the spring, the last of the state’s 441 public elementary schools registered for the program, according to a report by the Charleston Gazette-Mail.

The Let’s Move! Active Schools program strives to have children in participating schools have 60 minutes daily of physical activity.

Since 2014, West Virginia has required that its elementary students have at least 30 minutes of daily physical activity, and integrates physical activity in academic lessons, too. The schools also promote exercise activities before and after school, he said.

The hoped-for payoff is that children will be accustomed to being active as part of a healthier lifestyle that they will take into adulthood. There are other benefits, too. “We’re seeing research studies that are proving that when the kids are aerobically engaged or engaged in movement, their cognition increases and their academic performance increases and their discipline problems go down,” Grant told the newspaper. “And it’s fun, and they’re enjoying it.”

This is not the first “first” for West Virginia related to this program. West Virginia was recognized by the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition in 2014 for being the first state in the nation to have at least one school in every county sign up.

National surveys peg West Virginia with one of the highest obesity rates in the nation, for both children and adults, as well as having one of the least active populations. Full participation in a program such as Let’s Move! could mean that today’s generation of school kids will help reverse those rankings in the future.

Online:

http://www.herald-dispatch.com

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June 28

Charleston Gazette-Mail on two recent natural disasters:

Two natural disasters struck America at the same time: West Virginia’s tragic flash flooding and the West Coast’s drought-driven wildfires burning hundreds of homes.

Thoughtful people need to ponder an ominous question: Are such horrors linked to pollution-caused global warming that creates ever-worse weather?

Hotter air holds more moisture, causing more violent storms, drier droughts, worse floods and such climate perils.

The year 2014 was the hottest ever recorded - then 2015 eclipsed it - and now 2016 is significantly hotter than 2015 was.

“Scientists are warning that climate change has reached unprecedented levels and is no longer only a threat for the future,” London’s Guardian wrote last week. “Alongside the soaring temperatures, other records have tumbled around the world, from vanishing Arctic Sea ice to a searing drought in India and vast bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef.. Scientists predict that flash floods. will increase in the future.”

Penn State University climatologist Michael Mann warned: “Impacts of human-caused climate change are no longer subtle - they are playing out, in real time, before us.”

British climatologist Adam Scaife said 2016 temperatures are “obliterating” past records. “The numbers are completely unprecedented.”

The Guardian added: “Another shattered record is the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which is on course to rise by a record amount this year.” It quoted a German scientist: “We know from Antarctic ice cores that go back almost a million years that CO2 was never even remotely as high as this.” The London paper added: “The rate at which humanity is emitting CO2 is the fastest for 66 million years.”

Carbon dioxide forms a “greenhouse” layer in the sky that keeps heat concentrated on the planet’s surface.

In the aftermath of West Virginia’s flood tragedy, it’s a time to grieve for the dead and shelter multitudes of families who lost their homes, jobs and possessions.

But later, after the immediate crisis is past, conscientious people should think about causes of devastating weather.

Online:

http://www.wvgazettemail.com

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