The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Opinion

August 11, 2010

Shortsighted?

— The West Virginia Legislature gives — except when it doesn’t.

The Charleston Daily Mail reported Monday that House Republicans blocked the state from giving The Greenbrier $1 million, approved along with the rest of the state’s budget last spring, to be used for the recent PGA TOUR event played at the historic White Sulphur Springs resort.

The funds were to be used to help advertise the event and to help pay the $6 million in prize money.

The Republicans said it was not an appropriate use of taxpayers’ money and threatened to refuse to suspend rules during last month’s special session to allow the governor’s budget supplemental to speed through the House unless the $1 million was taken out.

Democrats didn’t want to stay around another day, so they acquiesced and removed The Greenbrier money from the budget supplemental.

Our question is, what changed to make the expenditure inappropriate in July when it was just fine in April?

The money was to come from the West Virginia Development Office, which makes such gifts to a variety of tourist-driven businesses every year. Whitewater outfitters, casinos, resorts, visitors bureaus and others have received funds down through the years, mostly to fund advertising to bring in visitors.

Greenbrier owner Jim Justice poured at least $25 million of his own money into The Greenbrier Classic. Many will argue that he received a good return on his money.

But so did West Virginia.

The tournament brought thousands of visitors to West Virginia, some who had never seen the state before. Even the touring pros had good things to say, adding they had not known previously all the state has to offer.

Millions and millions of dollars flowed into the state during the week of The Classic, dollars that area businesses would never have seen if it were not for the tournament.

The good will engendered by the positive experience these visitors had is priceless.

The tournament also raised $3 million for charities, many of them local.

Nothing but good flowed from The Greenbrier in regard to the PGA event.

Would any of these legislators have felt differently had the tournament been held in the Kanawha Valley? Is it sour grapes on their part that the spotlight was shining somewhere besides Charleston?

House Minority Leader Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, and Delegate Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson — who said “you can’t ask a poor person in West Virginia to fund a golf tournament through their tax dollars — have a history for using “hot button” items to get the public’s attention.

This particular use of the soapbox backfired on them, in our opinion, and it is a huge embarrassment to the Republican party; shameful and short-sighted to say the least.

This isn’t leadership, it’s petty politics.

We realize “a million dollars” is a great fortune to many West Virginians. And we are not advocating that the state throw money around indiscriminately.

The promise made in April needs to be kept. Gov. Manchin says he intends to keep it. Good for him.

The Republicans need to get down from their high horse and realize this $1 million is a good investment for West Virginia.

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