- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:


Aug. 2

Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia, on finding solutions to solve drug addiction in southern West Virginia:

It’s no secret that substance abuse continues to run rampant in southern West Virginia. It’s the scourge that never seems to die. When law enforcement and health care communities get a grip on one tentacle of the beast, another slides along to snatch away any gains.

We could build a thousand jails to lock away all of the addicts and the pushers, but we know that isn’t going to make the problem go away.

As we have said before, what is needed are more - many more - long-term treatment and rehabilitation centers.

That became more evident recently at the meeting of the Fayette County Commission where Prosecuting Attorney Larry Harrah reported that between 90 and 95 percent of all arraignments in the county are drug-related.

Think about that.

Then think about how many of that number are sentenced to a jail term or probation because there are no residential treatment centers with open beds.

It’s no wonder the cycle repeats over and over.

Commissioner Matt Wender expressed frustration with the Legislature for inaction on finding a way to solve the drug problem.

“Where are all of these organizations that are supposedly doing something. Our death rate from drug overdose is almost twice the national level. Where is the plan? …

“Until there are efforts to create in-house drug treatment facilities, there is only a half-hearted attempt to address the problem,” Wender added.

Wender has it right.

Drug addiction is not only wiping out a generation of southern West Virginians, it is a top factor in the fight to bring new and diverse economic opportunities to the region.

Wender says business prospects see a large available workforce and think perhaps this would be a good place in which to invest.

Then drug testing on that workforce begins, and the firms are disillusioned and take their jobs elsewhere.

The cycle repeats.

Lawmakers, the governor, health care officials and law enforcement say they are fighting the drug war with all the weapons at their disposal. And we know that is true.

But the arsenal is missing a crucial tool - long-term treatment and rehab.

Without those opportunities, it’s naive to think that returning an addict on probation to the same environment with the same group of friends will have an outcome different than picking up the same habit.

As legislators and Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin prepare for the 2016 session, we urge them to give their utmost attention to this conundrum. Yes, budget will be a problem. But really, can we afford not to address drugs with less than the best care and treatment?

Yes, we are losing a generation to drugs. But if we keep using the same failed methods to defeat them, we could well lose the next generation that is growing up with uncaring, neglectful parents who are looking only for their next fix.

Not breaking that cycle would be the greatest tragedy of all.




Aug. 5

Charleston (West Virginia) Gazette-Mail on the Environmental Protection Agency’s new rules:

The Environmental Protection Agency released new rules this week to reduce power plant emissions that contribute to climate change. The usual suspects reacted with what Sen. Robert C. Byrd might have called shaking their fist at the future.

But it’s not even the future anymore. It’s the present, in more ways than one.

First, climate change is here.

“We’re the first generation to feel the impact of climate change and we’re the last generation that can do something about it,” President Obama said Monday in announcing these rules and a huge investment in coalfield communities that are most affected by the changing economy.

The rules themselves are hundreds of pages, and opponents have promised to challenge them. The goal is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power generation by 32 percent by 2030 compared to 2005 levels. Such a reduction would set an example for other nations and help curb the long-term effects of climate change. Such a CO reduction is also expected to prevent premature deaths and asthma attacks.

Second, critics like to say such a plan to reduce emissions that contribute to climate change is some misguided or unfair effort to reconfigure the energy industry.

However, the energy industry has already reconfigured itself. That was done for decades by mechanization and more recently by hydraulic fracturing that has poured cheaper natural gas onto energy markets.

The “War on Coal” is a very successful PR campaign, but there is no truth in it. The coal industry is struggling from the same kind of economic forces and decisions that all industries must weather. So many coal companies are hurting now because of decisions those companies made over the last decade.

The big three coal companies - Peabody Energy, Arch Coal and Alpha Natural Resources - were all doing very well as recently as 2011, write Dave Hawkins and Andrew Stevenson of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

But those companies bet on coal prices staying high and an expected increase in electricity demand. Based on those projections, they took on debt. (Remember Alpha bought Massey Energy and just filed this week to reorganize in bankruptcy court.) Metallurgical coal prices dropped, energy demand remained steady and more natural gas and pipelines filled the demand, they write.

Of course, all this looks bad for coal jobs in West Virginia - particularly Southern West Virginia - again.

“Communities across America have been losing coal jobs for decades,” the president said Monday. “I want to work with Congress to help them, not to use them as a political football. Partisan press releases aren’t going to help those families.”

At last, someone has caught on to the idea that it is not right to let retirees, workers, their families and communities be crushed by this huge economic shift.

Obama’s proposal includes help for communities that should no longer expect the next coal boom to be around the corner. His Clean Power Plan offers protection for retiree benefits, health care, job training and seed grants to help communities plan and invest in the next iteration of their local economies.

All that and heading off the worst of climate change too.

“We can figure this stuff out, as long as we’re not lazy about it. As long as we don’t take the path of least resistance,” Obama said Monday.

“There is such a thing as being too late when it comes to climate change.”

There is also no more time to lose in economically depressed West Virginia counties.

The sooner Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, Sen. Joe Manchin and Sen. Shelley Capito see that, the better for West Virginia.




Aug. 3

Herald-Dispatch, Huntington, West Virginia, on states’ Earned Income Tax Credit and low-income working families:

If you think back to your first job, you probably did not make much money. But whether you were babysitting a neighbor’s child or mowing someone’s grass, those jobs taught valuable lessons about responsibility and a job well done. Moreover, the experience may well have prepared you for the next job - perhaps with a little more pay.

As the nation debates various strategies to helping low-income workers, it is important not to lose sight of the value of a job - even a low paying job - as a learning experience or even a stepping stone.

While proposals to dramatically increase the minimum wage would certainly help some low-income workers, many business leaders and economists worry a $15-an-hour threshold could eliminate many of those “first-step” jobs. Also much of the money would not go to low-income families, because many minimum-wage workers are teens, students and other members of more affluent households.

Many states are using a more targeted method of helping low-income working families by adding a state Earned Income Tax Credit to the existing federal EITC. The federal tax credit already helps more than 20 million low- to moderate-income families, especially those with children, each year with a credit that can actually put more cash in their pockets.

Those eligible for the federal help range from a single person earning about $14,600 a year who might receive a credit of about $500 to a married family with three children or more earning as much as $52,000 who might receive a credit of more than $6,000. The credit is refundable, so if it exceeds the income tax owed, the family can get a cash refund. Last year, workers received more than $60 billion in EITC refunds.

To date, 26 states have added state Earned Income Tax Credits to the federal mix, typically as a percentage of the federal calculation. Those range from giving a tax credit equal to 5-10 percent of the federal credit in Oregon and Oklahoma to more than 40 percent in Minnesota and California.

In Ohio, the state EITC is about 10 percent of the federal credit, but neither West Virginia nor Kentucky have a state program.

These programs have received bipartisan support in many states, and they should have appeal on both sides of the aisle in our region.

Adding a state EITC would help the families with children that need it most, but also is tied to and recognizes their hard work.



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