- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:


Feb. 2

The Journal on state’s car inspection mandate:

Be honest, now: How many times have you been alerted to a potential safety problem with your car or truck during one of West Virginia’s mandatory annual vehicle inspections? If it has not happened to you, chances are it has to someone you know.

A bill to repeal the vehicle inspection requirement has been introduced in the state Senate. If enacted, it would put an end to what many car and truck owners consider to be the annual inconvenience of having to take one’s vehicle to a licensed inspection station, wait for a mechanic to check it - then possibly pay for costly repairs.

But equipment covered in the inspections, such as tires and brakes, is critical to safety. If repairs are needed, they ought to be made not just for the safety of the vehicle’s owner, but also for other motorists who could be harmed if that person’s car or truck crashes.

Many of us like to believe we pay attention to our vehicles. But not everyone does and yes, sometimes we all fail to notice worn tires or squealing brakes. For a nominal fee ($12 plus $1 for a new decal), the inspection process can avoid serious, potentially fatal problems. The inspection mandate should stay on the books.




Feb. 2

The Herald-Dispatch on tax break request:

No good deed goes unpunished, the saying goes, and West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin experienced that last week.

In his budget proposal laid out earlier this month, Tomblin proposed some tax increases aimed at getting the state out of a steep budget hole. But he also proposed ending a 56-cent-per-ton surtax on coal production, a tax that cost the coal industry $64 million last year and was originally enacted to help pay for worker’s compensation reform. Coal industry leaders in the state had argued that ending the tax would help coal extracted in West Virginia compete with other coal-producing states.

But at last week’s West Virginia Coal Mining Symposium, sponsored by the West Virginia Coal Association, the state’s officials received a tongue-lashing from the keynote speaker. Robert Murray, chief executive of Murray Energy based in Clairsville, Ohio, criticized politicians in the host state for offering “platitudes and lip service” about helping the suffering coal industry rather than taking steps that would really assist it. And what would really help, in Murray’s opinion, would be reducing the state’s coal severance tax from 5 percent to 2 percent.

Dropping the severance tax by more than half surely would be a help, but whether it would mean more coal jobs or reverse the coal industry’s decline seems doubtful. What is certain, such a reduction would cost the state roughly $100 million in revenue, worsening its budget crisis and putting more state government services to the people in jeopardy. County budgets also would be hurt.

Let’s face it, Mr. Murray, the coal industry is not suffering alone, and the state simply can’t fulfill your demand.




Jan. 30

The Inter-Mountain on higher education in West Virginia:

Are West Virginia’s colleges getting leaner and meaner? Let’s hope so. That is precisely what the Mountain State needs.

Higher education officials reported earlier this year that enrollment in public colleges and universities is down. In 2011, their enrollment was the equivalent of 64,427 full-time undergraduate students. But by 2014, the most recent year for which reports were available, enrollment had declined to 61,042.

At first glance, that may be troubling. Our state has one of the lowest percentages of college graduates in the nation. We need more, not fewer.

But wait. During the same period covered by the enrollment statistics, the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded by public colleges and universities shot up, from 8,886 in 2011 to 9,269 in 2014.

At community and technical colleges, there were similar decreases in enrollment - but increases in degrees earned.

And to put the icing on that cake, the largest increases in degrees awarded were in health care and science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

We know higher education is getting leaner, as operating costs increase while tuition-paying student bodies and state support go down.

But the graduation figures may indicate West Virginia colleges and universities are doing a better job of ensuring that when students enroll, they have good prospects to graduate. At the same time, more may be earning the types of degrees that lead to high-paying careers.

The statistics are no reason for higher education officials to lift their feet off the reform throttle. To the contrary, much more remains to be accomplished and more years of improvement need to be recorded. West Virginia needs more people who succeed when they go to a college or university.



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