The Charleston Gazette-Mail's Ken Ward Jr. recently did an excellent two-part report at his Coal Tattoo blog trying to answer the question "who really runs West Virginia?" In his posts he points to energy, especially coal companies, which didn't surprise me. Today's morning papers did little to suggest otherwise.
In the Intelligencer, Mike Myer's column discusses the state's dire financial straits and concludes that things will get worse next year. His villain is the Department of Health and Human Resources because they will get a slight budget increase and other departments, notably education, will be facing big cuts. While he does discuss tax revenue, he says nothing critical about the current legislature significantly rolling back coal and gas severance taxes and the effects those reductions will have on present and future budgets. (Will reducing the severance tax save jobs and help the coal industry? I doubt it. See here for some insight on this.) Yes, attack human services but make sure those energy companies get their tax breaks.
When Robert Murray demanded cuts in the severance tax last month I naively thought "no way -- not in the state's current financial condition." I guess I forgot who really runs the state.
And then I saw this in the morning Gazette-Mail:
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin on Friday appointed an energy lobbyist to the state school board to fill a vacancy created when Wade Linger resigned last month.
In a press release, Tomblin announced the appointment of Scott Rotruck, who, according to state Ethics Commission filings, has lobbied natural gas, oil and transportation issues for companies like Chesapeake Energy and Geostellar Inc., a company that operates a solar panel online marketplace.
Okay, losing Linger is not a great loss -- he was, after all, the board member last year who questioned the teaching of climate change under the state's science standards because, according to Linger, it's just one of a number of theories and besides, West Virginia is a coal-producing state. Still, he's replaced by an energy lobbyist?
Forget budgets and education -- just go see what the energy companies want.