Panhandle (W.Va.) Grassroots for Democracy

The Panhandle Grassroots for Democracy is working to improve our corner of eastern West Virginia, our state and our nation.

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Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Panhandle Grassroots for Democracy

Here's the blog for the Pandle Grassroots for Democracy in eastern West Virginia. Post in the comments what links and other features should be added.

Funds for Route 9 on their way

Senator Robert C. Byrd made an announcement on Route 9:

More than $6.6 million in construction funds for Route Nine that U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., added to federal legislation is on the way to the Eastern Panhandle."We have seen the tragic price of an inadequate Route Nine. Too many lives have been lost. Too many tragedies have taken place. It is time to move forward with Route Nine’s upgrades, and move quickly," Byrd said.

The $6.6 million being released to the State on Tuesday is a down payment on the $10 million in funding that Byrd added to the transportation appropriations legislation last fall."

Each new mile of an improved Route Nine saves lives. Each new mile creates hope and expands opportunity. There has been too much delay in construction of this modernized road. It’s time to get to work," Byrd said.

Senator Byrd has worked for many years on funding the upgrades for Route Nine. Since 1991, he has obtained more than $142 million for planning, design, and construction of the modernized route.

In the coming days, the Senate will turn its attention to the bill that sets the baseline for federal construction dollars. The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed the President’s $284 billion bill to fund highway and public transit programs over a six-year period. When making changes to the President’s plan, the House failed to direct any funds toward Route Nine construction.

"The Eastern Panhandle’s problems cannot be ignored. It is absolutely critical that we ensure the safe travel on one of West Virginia’s deadliest stretches of road for people in our state’s fastest growing region," Byrd said.

Whether we agree with the Route 9 project or not, we can frame this to our advantage. We should write Letters to the Editor at The Journal, The Spirit of Jefferson Farmers Advocate and the Morgan Messenger to highlight Byrd's history of obtaining funds for West Virginia. Meanwhile, Shelley Moore Capito is unable to provide for her district even though she's in the majority party. Her close ties and support for the corrupt Tom DeLay has not translated into obtaining funds for her district.

Legislative countdown begins

Crunchtime in Charleston has begun. The State Journal has the story:

One bill that made headlines this week would give residents in counties with horse or dog racetracks the ability to vote on whether to allow casino-style table games at those locations. The table games legislation took a backseat to tort reform last week, but now it has passed its first major hurdle the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Senators debated Senate Bill 442 for two hours March 22, discussing everything from whether the entire state should vote on the issue to how much gambling revenue should fund the racetrack employees' pensions. The committee approved a new version of the bill that raised the proposed 12 percent tax rate on table game revenues to 24 percent.

The votes were close Sen. Steve Harrison, R-Kanawha, tried to convince other committee members a statewide referendum should be conducted in which voters could decide whether the four counties with tracks should be able to hold their own local election on table games. But Sen. Clark Barnes, R-Randolph, said legislators are elected to represent the state, and a statewide referendum is not needed.

"Passing it out on a (statewide) referendum is passing the buck," Barnes said.
Sen. Andy McKenzie, R-Ohio, who sponsored the bill, tried to change the way gambling revenues are divvied up to put more than $1 million in racetrack employees' pensions. But after more than 30 minutes of confusing calculations, the committee decided to adopt a simpler approach suggested by Sen. John Pat Fanning, D-McDowell, that would take $500,000 from profits kept by the tracks and $500,000 from the state's tax revenue from table games and dedicate that sum to pensions, which would augment a projected $141,000 for pensions already included in the revenue disbursement formula.

The Judiciary Committee's version of SB442 requires state revenue, projected at about $30 million if all four racetracks add table games, would be split among the Lottery Commission's expenses to regulate the games, along with appropriations to general revenue, the racetrack purse fund, employee pensions, county and city governments, the tourism promotion fund and gambling prevention efforts.

Should we take a position on this bill? I highlighted it because of Charles Town. The entire article is worth reading.