By Taylor Kuykendall
Gov. Joe Manchin, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, answered six questions posed to him by members of The Register-Herald editorial board earlier this week.
What opportunities do you see for diversifying the economy of West Virginia?
“The research and technology that we have done with Bucks for Brains shows the direction we are going in this state. Thirty-five million went to WVU and $15 million went to Marshall for research. They can’t just spend the money; they have to draw down that private sector investment. It’s unbelievable what’s happening in the biometrics world and the high-tech world.
“When you look at the jobs we have, I think that high-tech industrial jobs is something that will be a niche for West Virginia. We have a well versed and educated workforce as far as manufacturing. I’ve said this before — people in West Virginia have skill sets beyond most states because of our industrial past. If you worked in the mines, you learned skill sets whether it be repairing or anything.
“West Virginia is also a leader in the chemical world. Most of the chemicals used in this country were developed in the corridor there (Kanawha Valley). You had a big footprint. Dow has a big footprint. DuPont has a big footprint, they all do. Bayer Crop Science in Institute, those are all very large plants. Now the chemical industry has gone offshore and left us, most of it. We were able to successfully attract Kureha from Japan. The first venture they made into North America came right there.
“Bayer Crop Science helped attract biofuels, which I think leads right into renewable energy. If you are going to be secure in this nation, you better use everything you have. Every state should be responsible. We should mine every mineable ton of coal. We should be using it to our best advantage from the standpoint of gasifying, liquefying it and trying to be more energy independent as a nation. We should be trying to extract, in the most environmentally friendly way possible, all of the oil and gas in our state. We should be really ramping up our biofuel industry. We should be using all of our mountaintop mining if it’s not being used for industrial use or more of a productive value use.
“I think a diversification, whether it be biometrics all the way to the industrial manufacturing specialization, leads us to the well. The Marcellus Gas Shale is going to be a big thing for us. It basically gives a stock feed for the chemical industry.
“The auto industry has done very well in West Virginia over the last 10 or 15 years. All of the engines for the high-end Toyota product, Lexus, is all made in West Virginia now. They used to all be made in Japan, but it’s because of the quality of the workforce and the quality that comes out. I think that we can build on those successes. I truly do. You play to your strengths; you can’t use a shotgun approach. A shotgun approach basically says take all you can get. Well, unless it has good jobs with good pay, a livable wage and a benefit package, it doesn’t really benefit the state to jump out there and use your tax dollars and try to attract a job to West Virginia that needs to be supported by the state. Basically they are double-dipping and I’m double-paying.
“In the downturn of a national economy we are one of the most stable governments in the country right now. You have to keep that stability. People want certainty in business if they are going to make an investment. We have to keep continually reminding ourselves as West Virginians that if you want to share wealth, if you are inclined to share wealth, you better know how to create wealth. If you are going to create wealth, you better have an attraction for investments. That means people who want to move their company or expand their company have the best opportunity to receive a marketable return.
“And it all hinges on education. If we don’t produce the workforce for the 21st century, we will not be the superpower we are today. That’s the proverbial wall that everyone is going to hit.”
If you had to cut one federal program or agency, which one would it be? Why?
“I can tell you how I approached it with the size of government and the programs we had in state government. I looked at the Constitution first, I looked at the laws, the codification of the laws, and then I looked basically at the expansion of government. Then I started consolidating and eliminating what really wasn’t mandated by law or the Constitution. I did it through attrition. I think the federal government could very well do the same, very easily, and no one really gets harmed. In West Virginia we have a 10 percent turnover rate. They either retire or they leave the system. We need to maintain that 10 percent replacement.
“I know I’ve got an opponent who wants to eliminate a lot of regulations and a lot of oversight and a lot of education departments and things of that nature. I think there needs to be a check and balance. The thing that offends me most is the overreaching that is going on. As far as expansion of the EPA and their rulemaking procedures, which they’ve adopted on their own, not through a legislative order, but through an internal direction. They are trying to regulate what they can’t legislate. Usually the oversight is something that has to be approved by an elected body.
“The bottom line with the federal government right now is that I think they’re dead wrong. This administration is dead wrong on its understanding of the Tenth Amendment of the United States Constitution that gives states some sovereignty rights as far as self-governing. We are able to show them we can balance our environment and our economy. They should not be the ones setting the standards. One size doesn’t fit all.
“When you say one agency — I would say every agency needs to be looked at as far as consolidation and working within its balance.
“A lot of these agencies were put in place 50 or more years ago. Are they still functioning? There should be a complete audit. We look at government at what we have and what we are doing in Charleston, and I can tell you that it’s evolving quicker now than it ever has.
“I can’t just point to one agency and tell you that it should be eliminated. I can’t tell you how it came into being ... I never started one new program. I just wanted to fix what was broken. There were too many programs that weren’t needed or working. That’s how we did it and it’s the same approach I would take in Washington.”
Will the EPA always have an adversarial relationship with West Virginia or is there room for compromise, and is climate change a real issue and what role does West Virginia play in the future of the environment?
“We have entered into a federal lawsuit with the EPA and there are some people that would say it’s political. I’ve been fighting the Obama administration for a year and a half. When he (Obama) was running, he was saying there was a balance because he was from the coal state of Illinois. We thought there might be a balance.
“If you just look at our past performance in West Virginia, we have cleaned up the environment more during the last two decades than anytime during the history of this country. The scrubbers, the low NOX boilers, everything we have done. With that is even more that can be done. Now they’ve identified CO2. Do I believe or is there scientific proof that CO2 is global warming? I don’t think all the evidence is in it — that it’s conclusive. That being said, there’s 6 billion people on this planet earth and we’re going to emit and we’re going to use more and we’re going to have an effect. Anyone that doesn’t believe that, I think would be disillusioned. Do I believe that we should be able to do better through technology and with our wits about us? Absolutely.
“When we said that we have an acid rain problem in the ’80s, we were getting sued every day by the Northeast because of the trade winds blowing up there. At that point and time everyone said this and that, but we attacked SO2 by saying fine. We didn’t raise the price of coal, we didn’t raise taxes on coal. They already had the technology, which was the scrubbers, and they had the technology of low-NOX boilers which would reduce emissions. So we had technology and we just say you have to do this within a certain time and they did it.
“The problem with the cap and trade that they are introducing now and that has passed in the House is that it’s not intended on fixing anything. It’s intended to make money.
“Coal produces 50 percent of the energy. Coal will be needed for the next minimum of 30 to 50 years. Even if we ramped up and said we were going to go all nukes, you can’t get nukes up and running to take the baseload.
“There is an ad — a total, absolute lie that is saying that Joe Manchin introduced a piece of legislation that reduces and penalizes coal use by 25 percent. The Coal Association endorses me. The national Chamber of Commerce and local chambers of commerce endorse me. If they thought I would do anything to harm the economy at all, I wouldn’t be endorsed.
“We should mine every mineable ton of coal and be using it to our best advantage, gasifying or liquefying it, to try to be more energy secure as a nation. We should be trying to extract, in the most environmentally balanced way, all of the oil and gas we can in our state.
“We have the largest wind farm east of the Mississippi. People don’t look at us as a renewable state, but we have done more in all different arenas than most states. They all talk about it, but we’ve done something.
“By just attacking the United States economy thinking that if we can eliminate CO2 to the point of wreaking havoc on our economy, not having a baseload fuel as a back up to take the place of coal, you are basically shooting yourself in the foot and self-inflicting economic pain.
“Elimination of fossil fuels would do irreparable harm to the economy. I would fight that to my last breath, and I believe we will win this fight. I also believe we will win the EPA suit. I know they infringed upon the Tenth Amendment and we will win that one. I feel very strongly about that.”
The Federal Highway Trust Fund is broke and funding is limited at both the federal and state level. How we do move forward in the future to ensure we can build and maintain new roads and bridges and maintain the ones we already have?
“Maintenance is an issue in every bit of public life. Whether it’s somebody building a new school, colleges wanting money for new facilities ... They all put their wish list together and say they want to build something new. I say, ‘let me see your deferred maintenance.’ I want to see what’s falling down. How can I look the public in the eye and tell them you’ve got a new building with someone’s name on it that’s going to make them happy while the rest of your stuff is falling down around you?
“We spent more money in the last six years on roads than ever in the history of West Virginia. There’s been more money spent on infrastructure in the last six years, which is road, bridges, water, sewers and broadband high-speed, than ever. I really believe in that strongly.
“Corridor H — I am going to fight like the dickens — should be a National Defense Highway. It’s going to be a western migration if something happens, God forbid. You hear people predicting it’s not if, but when. If that would happen, where are the people going to migrate? It’s not east because that’s the ocean. They are coming west and we don’t have a major corridor to move them.
“We are also looking at where is the most danger on our roads and where is the most need. Then we look at roads on a six-year plan because in six years you should be able start and finish a project. Everything we have on is six-year cycles and we took the politics out of it.
“The funding trouble that we have now in Washington is if they could get their act together and quit giving money away for everything and every Tom, Dick and Harry that comes down the pipe, and start committing themselves to infrastructure, we could rebuild America.
“You start really building your core and your infrastructure. They’re siphoning money off for everything but that. The stimulus package came down with not a whole lot of commitment. Remember the term shovel-ready? If it was shovel ready, boy we are going to get it done and that just didn’t pan out the way it was supposed to.
“The roads are going to be more an issue of the state ... It’s becoming more of a state burden and it is going to be because if you wait, you’re never going to get it. If you are waiting for money and the money is not there, you are going to have problems.”
Historically, West Virginia politicians have often brought money to the state in the form of earmarks in the federal budget. Do you support the practice of earmarking federal funds?
“That’s just not who I am. Depending on how you define earmarks. Are earmarks bridges, infrastructure and things like that? Infrastructure I am totally in support of. I think you know how strongly I feel about infrastructure.
“I just think it’s a sin in the 21st century to not have water and sewer and the things you need to take care of yourselves. Government has to step to the plate. They have siphoned so much money that didn’t have anything to do with infrastructure and earmarks.
“If you’re just spending money to build things and do things that basically does not benefit the public as a whole and a politician does it to be more popular just because he brought stuff home — that’s got to stop. If you have a United States balanced budget amendment, that would stop. Then you have to be accountable. Earmarks should not be hidden in legislation so that you don’t know who asked for what and how they got it. That’s ridiculous.
“Earmarks as you know them, and earmarks as they have been defined, I am absolutely against, infrastructure that is needed, and investments that are needed and savings by restructuring? Absolutely.”
If elected and there was one thing you could do for West Virginia, what would it be?
“I would take our story to Washington, which I don’t think has been told. How do you come through the greatest recession since the Depression and be a financial beacon for the rest of the country? How did we adjust ourselves in a six-year period of time? How did we get our financial house in order and still not cause any hardship anywhere? How did we do it while reducing taxes and not increasing taxes? People don’t know that.
“When I tell people you know we are paying our bills, we haven’t raised taxes, we aren’t laying anybody off, I haven’t cut any services ... Did you know we have one of top surplus rainy day funds? Did you know we’ve had increases as far as our credit rating, when everybody else is losing theirs? They can’t believe that.
“We’ve fallen off the cliff before, financially, and there’s no reason to believe we wouldn’t have fallen off this time. But we started changing six years ago when things were really good. We paid down debt, got our financial house in order, became more competitive in the marketplace with our insurance and workers’ comp, and was able to compete.”
“And don’t go see Gov. Manchin if you want a handout. If you want a partner, come and see me, but if you want to just come down and suck off of us, I am not going to give you a penny until I see you’ve taken some ownership in your community. It’s worked.
“I’m going to take this same can-do work ethic we did here to fix things there ... It’s not like I’m going to be in there for life. If in two years, I go up there and don’t represent the state the way I represented it as governor, I hope I have the sense not to run, but I hope you have the sense to throw me out. At least let me take the success we had here to that level and show them.
“I want people to understand who we are, get their attention. The things I am telling you that need to be fixed in Washington, we’ve done and we’re on the road to success in West Virginia.
“I also think Democrats and Republicans in Washington are both dead wrong. They are both horribly wrong. I see them putting their party first — whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican; themselves first as a politician, what’s good for them; and the country comes third. That is dead wrong. Now I’ll be the worst thorn in their side. I don’t care who they are, in the spirit of Byrd, if you were right or wrong, he was going to let you have it. He didn’t care if your were the president, the pope or the queen.
“The way (health care reform) overreaches into the lives of people and small businesses and it mandates that you have to do something. People aren’t going to stand for that. It’s not who we are. I think both Democrats and Republicans would agree that a child with a pre-existing condition should be able to be covered. A person with a pre-existing condition should be able to buy insurance. Caps shouldn’t be on it and small businesses should have incentives to cover all the working people.
“The most vulnerable members of our society are working. If you’re working, your chances of not having adequate coverage or any coverage at all is higher than any other part of our society. If you’re old, you got it. If you’re poor, you got it. If you’re a kid, you got it. If you’re a criminal, you got it. But, by golly, if you get up in the morning and go to work, chances are you don’t have insurance. It’s awful. You are only one catastrophic illness away from bankruptcy.”
— E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org