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Steve Novotney Says, "Grizzly Could Help His Poodle"

So, now W.Va. Gov. Jim Justice is entering press conferences like Hulk Hogan once did at Wesbanco Arena minus, that is, the pyrotechnics.

"Hype videos," as labeled by Del. Shawn Fluharty (D-3rd), are now played immediately before the governor makes his grand entrance to deliver what he always believes is "positive news" that's not "fake news." Last week, the topic involved PEIA, the program that supplies health insurances for the majority of the state's employees, including public school teachers.

Gov. Justice pledged $100 million to PEIA and also offered a second 5 percent pay increase to the same folks who received one following this winter's regular legislative session that included a nine-day work stoppage and huge rallies at the Capitol Building. However, a valid point made last week by Del. Fluharty involved the governor's ability to call a special session when he wishes.

"If he wanted to fix it right now, and before Election Day, he could call [the legislature] into session and present his proposal," the lawmaker explained. "But nothing happens without legislative approval, and he's acting like this is a done deal. I hope it's possible, but that remains to be seen."

The Charleston Gazette-Mail's Phil Kabler reported on Oct. 2 that revenues had increased significantly in the month of September thanks to road construction and the volatile coal and gas industries. It's been a good year in the state as far as revenue is concerned, but the same was true when former Senate President Jeff Kessler crafted legislation that still could be a second rainy fund. Unfortunately, very soon after the "Future's Fund" was approved, gas lost value and the companies halted activity.

The good news – it's picked up again and the white-truck traffic is once again thick and frustrating in Marshall, Ohio, and Belmont counties. But road conditions have suffered, and a strapped Division of Highways is struggling from a lack of funding and a severe lack of people power.

Look at it this way – if you're asked to jackhammer concrete, would you rather do it for $10.50 an hour, or for $18.50 an hour?

That's the competition the DOH is facing, and not just with laborers, but it's one of several reasons why we live with the seven-times-delayed Wheeling Suspension Bridge project, the non-scheduled Interstate 70 road-bond venture, and a crumbling Wheeling Hill highway.

Moral of the story?

Announcements are just that – announcements – and that's all the governor offered to the state employees and public-school teachers. That is why, if Gov. Justice wishes to prove his pledge is not just another prop in his bag of gimmicks, he needs to call a special session and get it passed, or he needs to put the pledge in writing with one stipulation: If the $100 million is not allocated to PEIA, and if the employees do not receive another 5 percent compensation increase, as well, Justice resigns.

If you really want to help your poodle, Mr. Grizzly Bear, that may be what it takes in the northern panhandle.

Categories: Commentary