- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:

March 31

Charleston (West Virginia) Daily Mail on improving state parks:

West Virginia’s 32 beautiful state parks have no shortage of trees. Unfortunately, money doesn’t grow on them.

That’s the reality Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin had to live by when he used his line-item veto power on a legislative directive of improvements to Beech Fork State Park in Wayne County and Cacapon State Park in Morgan County.

At first glance, it sounds like Tomblin doesn’t like lodges. Reading deeper, you see it’s a tough financial decision.

The millions of dollars required for upgrades to the two parks would have come by selling bonds. The idea was to pay back the debt from state Lottery revenue.

The problem with that is, Lottery revenue is down as surrounding states have built their own casinos.

Tomblin’s office worried that struggling to pay back the bonds would have damaged the state’s bond rating — making it harder to borrow money in the future.

“The governor continues to work with his administration to explore other options to finance the project while remaining committed to fiscally responsible policies,” Tomblin spokesman Chris Stadelman told The Herald-Dispatch of Huntington in a reaction story about Beech Fork.

State Sen. Charles Trump, R., Morgan County, expressed disappointment about the setback for Cacapon. But Trump was realistic about what the governor had to do.

“I’m convinced Tomblin is not cold on the project if it can be done without borrowing,” Trump told The Journal in Martinsburg.

Money is tight all over state government, so that’s a big if. But these are worthwhile projects that would draw renewed interest from visitors.

Beech Fork’s expansion plan includes a 75-room lodge with a restaurant, indoor pool, recreation facilities and meeting centers.

Cacapon would be up for 82 lodge rooms, a new dining room and a lounge with a new kitchen, an indoor/outdoor pool and spa, more conference rooms and the restoration of the 18-hole Robert Trent Jones Sr. golf course.

Possible funding strategies include public-private partnerships or revenue from leasing public lands for drilling for natural gas. Trump says he isn’t giving up.

“I’m going to work on alternative funding sources this year. But if we can’t find the funding, I’ll probably be a little more assertive and aggressive during the next legislative session to get the project going.”

Improving West Virginia’s parks is a worthy goal. West Virginia just needs to be sure the improvements are made on solid financial foundation.




March 31

The Register-Herald, Bleckley, West Virginia, on presidential debate:

For the first time, West Virginia has entered a bid to host a presidential debate prior to the next election in 2016.

The proposal, by West Virginia University and West Virginia State University, would utilize the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences in Charleston as a venue.

The bid could not be more timely.

Presidential debates are high-profile events, often winning national and global audiences of more than 50 million people.

And it’s not just the debate itself. If West Virginia is successful in its bid, the debate would be held in late October or early November in 2016.

But a year’s worth of pre-debate events would precede the actual debate, allowing the state to put its best foot forward to a national and even international audience.

In 2008, for example, the University of Mississippi successfully hosted a debate in the city of Oxford. With a population of just 20,000, it was one of the smaller sites, but hosting the debate paid big dividends for Ole Miss and the state of Mississippi.

Ole Miss administrator Andrew Mullins said afterward that the university’s profile rose substantially as a result of hosting the debate between Barack Obama and John McCain.

Two other debates were held that year in Nashville and Hempstead, N.Y.

In 2012, debates were held in Denver, Hempstead again (the home of Hofstra University), and Nashville at Belmont University.

As you might imagine, competition for one of the three debate sites is fierce, and there’s no guarantee that West Virginia will be selected as one of the finalists.

But it is overwhelmingly positive that the state has made a bid.

You can’t win if you don’t play.

In addition to WVU and WVU State, a number of other individuals have been instrumental in putting the bid together.

Mike Stuart, a former state Republican Party chair, is currently chair of the West Virginia Commission on Presidential Debates.

He described the bid as “such a unique opportunity for West Virginia .”

In addition to Stuart, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, a Democrat, has played a major role, showing it’s a bipartisan effort at heart.

Also cited for their contributions were state Adjutant Gen. James Hoyer, Homeland Security Director Jimmy Gianato and Tourism Commissioner Amy Shuler Goodwin.

We won’t know whether Charleston will be selected as a debate site until November.

But if it is, we’ve got a chance to show the nation and the world the best the Mountain State has to offer.




March 30

Herald-Dispatch, Huntington, West Virginia on state’s highway system:

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin last week vetoed a bill that would let businesses pay for minor road repair projects of their choice, such as filling potholes.

While that may seem counter-intuitive in light of the rash of potholes we’re now seeing on streets and roads, Tomblin made the right call. The legislation, passed in the West Virginia legislative session that ended two weeks ago, would have let businesses donate to a fund and earmark contributions for specific projects.

In his veto message, the governor said the proposal wouldn’t be a cost effective use of state resources and would place an undue burden on the commissioner of highways to administer. Those arguments make sense. Beyond that, however, repairs to our roads shouldn’t be a “pay to play” proposition. Instituting such a policy would divert state resources from projects that arguably should have higher priority.

The larger issue illustrated by the legislation and Tomblin’s veto of it is that neither the legislature nor the governor made any significant headway during the recent legislative session on one of the state’s biggest challenges. And that is determining a way to address the state’s deteriorating road system.

Both lawmakers and Tomblin can share the responsibility for that inaction.

The governor created a Blue Ribbon Commission on Highways in August 2012. In September 2013, the commission offered some early findings, including a call for the state to allocate $750 million more a year to adequately maintain existing roadways and an additional $380 million a year to construct proposed new highways in a timely manner.

A final report by the commission was expected last fall, but it hasn’t been forthcoming yet. A reasonable question: “What’s the holdup?” Meanwhile, Tomblin offered no proposals for this year’s legislative session to address the issue.

As far as the legislature is concerned, the only bill coming out of the session related to more funding for road work was the one that Tomblin vetoed. Sen. Robert Plymale, D-Wayne, did sponsor legislation that would have raised more than $300 million a year for the state Road Fund through a 2-cent-a-gallon increase in the state gas tax, a dedicated 1 percent increase in sales taxes, and increases in various Division of Motor Vehicle fees. Those were strategies mentioned in the preliminary report from the commission on highways. But the legislation went nowhere.

Plymale says he considers the status of the state’s transportation system the most important economic issue facing West Virginia, and road conditions are what he hears about most from constituents. He has noted that in the 1990s, the Division of Highways repaved the state’s secondary roads on 12-year cycles. Now, that paving cycle has been pushed back to once every 33 years, which is not acceptable.

Lawmakers have talked about paying more attention to the highway needs during interim sessions the rest of this year, and we hope they give the topic the emphasis it deserves. The same message is pertinent to the governor and his blue ribbon commission. Both branches of state government should be prepared to make the highway and road system a priority for action when 2016 rolls around.



Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide