- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:

May 5

The Register-Herald, Bleckley, W.Va., on vocational education:

Vocational education is alive and well in southern West Virginia.

That is good news for any number of people - those of high school age and adults alike - who know college is not for them.

Fayette Institute of Technology (FIT) and Raleigh’s Academy of Careers and Technology (ACT), featured on Monday’s front page, are shining examples of the opportunities available to provide an education that can set a student up for a lifelong career.

In the past, some may have sneered at the thought of a technical school education; perhaps the connotation was that those who went there weren’t cut out for academics.

But those perceived attitudes are changing, according to FIT Principal Barry Crist.

All of the programs at FIT are filled to capacity for the next school year and there are some 80 high school students on a waiting list for a spot in one of its 18 programs.

The principal attributes that to the diversity and practicality of the programs.

Job placement levels are high as well.

Although students leave school job-ready, if one feels the need to further his education, he is also prepared to go to college and get a degree.

Auto mechanics, electrician, masonry, construction, drafting, computer technology, health technology - these are but a few of the course offerings at technical schools …

We know a shortage in some of these technical skills is coming as baby boomers who hold these jobs retire.

So more tech schools - and more tech grads - to fill that growing demand should be on everyone’s agenda.




May 6

The Herald-Dispatch, Huntington, W.Va., on Ohio’s future:

In recent decades, keeping up with infrastructure needs has been a constant headache for governments at all levels. Time has taken a toll on roads, bridges, sewer and water systems, jails and other public facilities. Governments have been hard-pressed to meet the growing needs.

Meanwhile, the cost to replace or repair that infrastructure keeps rising.

Perhaps no layer of government faces a bigger challenge in this regard than the local level because cities and counties have smaller budgets to work with and are limited in how they can raise more revenue.

But Ohio has developed an answer to help fill that void. It’s called the State Capital Improvement Program, an initiative voters in the Buckeye State first approved as a constitutional amendment in 1987 and have renewed two more times since then, in 1995 and 2005. The program involves the state borrowing money by issuing bonds and using those funds to help local governments pay for infrastructure projects.

In Ohio’s primary election today, May 6, voters are being asked to renew the program again. A statewide ballot proposal, labeled Issue 1, seeks voters’ approval to borrow $1.875 billion over 10 years for the State Capital Improvement Program. The proposal would permit up to $175 million to be spent in each of the first five years, and up to $200 million in each of the next five. The borrowing of money would not lead to a direct increase in taxes; repaying the debt is built into the state’s budget planning.

Meanwhile, local governments get badly needed help. Projects are selected at the local level though 19 local public works committees that review and apply for funding. Villages, cities, townships, counties and water and sanitary districts are eligible …

Like they have in the past, Ohio voters should give their stamp of approval to the capital improvement program by voting “yes” on Issue 1. Doing so is showing support for maintaining the infrastructure that the public relies on and making an investment in the state’s economy by generating tens of thousands of construction-related jobs over the next decade.




May 6

Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail on private pension plans:

Legislators in Connecticut, West Virginia and other states have proposed creating pension plans to cover private-sector employees whose employers do not offer pensions.

The proposal cannot overcome the absurdity of having state government create state-subsidized individual retirement accounts. The 50 state governments already are staring at a combined unfunded liability of up to $3 trillion in their various pension plans for teachers and other public employees.

And they are going to take on more responsibilities?

Nevertheless, lawmakers in Connecticut want to have state taxpayers somehow finance pension plans for people in the private sector. In Connecticut, supporters of this plan cite the difficult case of Dorry Clay, 54, who has cancer and is struggling with her business and cannot set aside money for a pension. She faces working until she is in her 70s.

But such a pension plan would not be limited to Clay, business groups in Connecticut point out. Also, as with Obamacare, the state would mandate that people save toward retirement, Connecticut state Sen. Joe Markley said.

“We have to ask ourselves if it’s government’s place to force people to save for retirement,” Markley, a Republican, told Stephen Singer of the Associated Press.

But besides the constitutional question, there is a practical problem. The state of Connecticut’s public employee pension plan is only 42 percent funded, leaving a hole of more than $13 billion for taxpayers to fill.

Here in West Virginia, which has an unfunded liability of “only” $5 billion, the House of Delegates passed such a measure this year, sponsored by Delegate Doug Reynolds, D-Wayne. Fortunately, wiser heads in the state Senate thwarted his plan …

Pension promises are easy to make and difficult to keep. Legislators should stay clear of them.



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