Editorial Roundup: West Virginia

Bluefield Daily Telegraph. July 23, 2022.

Editorial: Black lung benefits: Lawmakers reintroduce important measure

Area lawmakers, including U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, D-Va., and U.S. Senator Mark Warner, D-Va., have reintroduced the Black Lung Benefits Improvement Act, an important federal measure that seeks to ensure miners who have suffered from black lung disease and their survivors can access the benefits they need and deserve.

Manchin, Kaine and Warner joined U.S. Senator Bob Casey, D-Pa. and U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, in reintroducing the measure last week. The proposed legislation seeks to improves the existing black lung benefits program for miners and their survivors by increasing access to legal representation, protecting financial compensation against inflation and bankruptcy of self-insured coal companies and reducing wait times for processing claims to the benefits.

The measure merits bipartisan support and passage.

Congress established the Black Lung Benefits Act in conjunction with the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969 to provide monthly compensation and medical coverage for coal miners who developed severe disabilities from black lung disease. The new measure backed by Manchin, Kaine and Warner expands and improves the existing program to ensure the federal government is fulfilling its commitment to the nation’s coal miners, according to the three lawmakers. The measure has been endorsed by several miner advocate groups, including the United Mine Workers of America, Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center, BlueGreen Alliance and Appalachian Voices.

“For generations, our brave coal miners have risked their lives and health to power our nation to greatness and as a result, many of our miners suffer from black lung Disease,” Manchin said. “After their enormous sacrifices, they have earned the vital treatment and medical care they need.”

“Virginia miners have helped power this nation for generations, risking their health and often developing deadly black lung disease while on the job,” Kaine added. “Following their sacrifice, they’ve earned benefits to help them combat this debilitating disease. This legislation will make it easier for miners and their family members to receive these benefits in a fair and timely manner.”

“Every day, Virginia’s coal miners put their health at risk to power our country,” Warner said. “We owe it to those battling black lung disease as a result of their years of work to ensure that they receive the medical care they deserve.”

Manchin, Warner and Kaine are correct.

Those retired coal miners who labored deep underground to help power our nation are more than deserving of their benefits. The Black Lung Benefits Improvement Act would help in accomplishing that objective. It merits full consideration and support in Congress.

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Parkersburg News and Sentinel. July 23, 2022.

Editorial: Tax Rates: West Virginia lawmakers should consider cuts proposal

On Monday, lawmakers in West Virginia will convene in special session to discuss Gov. Jim Justice’s proposal to cut the personal income tax rate by 10%.

Justice has advocated over the past few years for the elimination of the state personal income tax.

“I’ve been the biggest proponent of completely eliminating our state personal income tax. It will drive job growth, population growth and prosperity in West Virginia. But the most important thing to do is get started right away,” Justice said. “… Once we get the ball rolling, we can keep coming back and chipping away at our personal income tax until it’s completely eliminated. When you look at states like Florida, Texas and Tennessee, they have no personal income tax and their state economies are growing like crazy. There is a direct correlation. People are moving to no-income-tax states because they can keep more of their hard-earned paycheck, which spurs ever greater economic activity. …”

Justice may be right.

West Virginia finds itself in a strong financial position. The Legislature has done an admirable job over the past few years in holding the line on spending, which, when combined with other federal rescue plan funds, has given the state a substantial surplus of $1.3 billion.

Reducing the income tax was certainly one of the factors driving the economic and population growth in the states the governor proposes as models.

Even with Justice’s proposed 10% income tax cut, West Virginia will continue to have, in many categories, higher income tax rates than the others states on its borders. It would be more reasonable to expect to attract new residents if our income tax rates were lower than the states from which they were moving.

It’s past time for the state to find an improved model for population and economic growth. It’s time for bold ideas that will propel the state forward. As the governor has proposed, eliminating the personal income tax may be an important element in making that happen, and we encourage lawmakers to begin real discussions on the matter.

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The Intelligencer. July 27, 2022.

Editorial: Ensuring W.Va. Has High-Speed Internet

There’s a lot of talk lately about bringing broadband internet access to West Virginians. West Virginia’s Department of Economic Development says it is bringing quality broadband internet to hundreds of thousands of homes in the state. U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin rightly wants us to have a sense of urgency in getting this done — similar to that of bringing electricity to homes in the 1930s.

It’s a big deal. But according to some studies, West Virginians who do have internet access have the slowest internet in the country.

Yep. We’re dead last there, too. Our internet service is on average 49% slower than the national average. Our average download speed is 60.7 mbps; the national average is 119.0 mbps. Only 64.3% of Mountain State households have broadband internet; and only 68.6% have a desktop or laptop computer.

According to the latest census data, there are 734,235 households in West Virginia. Officials who find themselves inundated with federal money to do so cannot move quickly enough in getting quality broadband internet access to the hundreds of thousands who do not have it. But they must also ensure companies are doing right by the rest — some of whom are being told they have “quality” internet access, but in reality deal with outages and slowdowns the likes of which make it impossible to work or learn remotely.

Remember, we’re trying to attract and retain employers and residents in an era where quality, reliable high-speed internet access truly is a necessity. Having, on average, the slowest internet in the country is not going to do that.

There is no room for error in correcting this shortfall, now.

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