- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:

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Feb. 20

The Journal of Martinsburg on “tools for improvement:”

Even when clear economic development benefits would result from infrastructure improvements, it has become exceedingly difficult for West Virginia state government to come up with the money for them. We cannot seem to even patch the potholes we have, much less build new roads in which more of them may occur.



But if the state could find partners to share some of the cost, such improvements might be an entirely different story. There is a possibility for that to happen.

It is the brainchild of Marshall County Commissioner Bob Miller. In effect, he wants state law and the West Virginia Constitution to be amended to permit counties to help fund economic development work such as new roads.

Miller has noted that, in large measure because of the gas drilling boom, some counties have more revenue than they need for day-to-day government operations. That money could be put to use in projects such as extending Interstate 68 west to the Ohio River from its current terminus near Morgantown, Miller believes.

Extending I-68 through the Northern Panhandle could net enormous economic development benefits. But as matters stand, that will not happen because the state lacks the funding.

Miller’s idea was considered by some legislators last year but, in the crush of business, it did not receive the necessary support.

It is back again this year, in the form of Senate Bill 210 and Senate Joint Resolution 4. One of the sponsors of SJR 4 is state Sen. Ryan Weld, R-Brooke.

Approval of both measures in both the Senate and House of Delegates would be needed to allow the proposal to proceed. It could not be implemented without a constitutional amendment approved by voters.

Miller’s idea is no panacea for the challenge of funding important economic development infrastructure projects. But it is worthy of action by lawmakers simply because it would provide another tool to move such plans from the current “out of the question” to “possible.”

Online: https://www.journal-news.net/

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Feb. 22

The Huntington Herald-Dispatch on litter and dumping penalties:

Drive any street in our state and you are likely to see careless litter - cups, bags, plastic bottles, cigarette butts and other trash.

Just as troubling are the informal dumps along the side of the road, where residents throw larger items from mattresses to old appliances and furniture.

One of the early bills being considered by the West Virginia Legislature would establish tougher penalties for littering and dumping, and that would be a positive step.

The bill approved by the House Judiciary Committee would raise the possible fine for littering on public property or anyone else’s private property from $1,000 to $2,500. A littering misdemeanor offense also would carry higher sentences of up to 100 hours of community service collecting trash, up from 16 hours currently. The proposal not only targets trash thrown from motor vehicles, but also boats and airplanes.

The minimum fine would remain $100 for tossing up to 100 pounds of refuse, and the fines would increase with dumping larger amounts, capping the fine at $10,000 and making it mandatory for dumping more than 500 pounds.

As West Virginia works to rebuild and diversify its economy, particularly with outdoor tourism, the state needs to pay attention to what visitors see along our streets and roadsides. Trash and junk give all the wrong impressions, and taking a tougher stance on littering and dumping is the right thing to do.

Online: https://www.herald-dispatch.com/

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Feb. 22

The Inter Mountain of Elkins on a proposal that cuts money for fairs and festivals:

Gov. Jim Justice was elected in large measure because many West Virginians viewed him as the anti-political answer to our state’s problems. The billionaire businessman milked the “I am not a politician” mantra for all it was worth.

It turns out that Justice can operate as politically as anyone.

For many years, legislators have discussed whether the state should financially support special events such as fairs and festivals.

Funding for 425 fairs and festivals throughout the state was included in this year’s budget, but it was reduced by 10 percent from the previous year. A total of $1,668,297 was appropriated this year. Another $2,663,647 was provided in larger grants for various cultural purposes.

Some lawmakers believe the funding should be eliminated. Others do not, but the discussion has been on fiscal, not political, grounds.

Justice changed that this week. His budget proposal eliminates all fairs and festivals funding, along with the more than $2.6 million in other cultural support.

On Tuesday, his office issued a press release that was as thinly veiled a threat as we have seen in recent years. In the release, Justice “stressed that more than $4 million in cuts to the state’s fairs and festivals can be alleviated if the Legislature acts on his Save Our State (S.O.S.) plan.”

Justice’s S.O.S. proposal would have lawmakers appropriate more than $105 million for a vaguely defined economic development initiative. It would amount to a huge fund essentially at the governor’s disposal.

There simply is not enough money available to cover it - unless the Legislature goes along with Justice’s recommended tax increases. They total between $400 million and $450 million a year for the general revenue fund alone.

Go along with the tax increases, and the fairs and festivals money is restored, the governor is saying. Reject the new taxes, and, well, you can forget the funding. Explain that to the tens of thousands of voters who will be upset the state has eliminated funding for their special events.

Justice is holding the fairs and festivals money hostage, in effect.

And, his press release adds, if his tax increases are rejected, “cuts to fairs and festivals will be only the tip of the iceberg.”

Lawmakers are well aware of the state’s fiscal dilemma.

Neither Democrats nor Republicans in the Legislature should allow the governor to bully them into making the wrong choices on the budget.

Online: https://www.theintermountain.com/

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