As a proud native of Southwest Virginia and resident of the Star City, I am shocked by the recent actions of this Governor. We all knew that Terry would have nothing to do with us. Let us not forget that this Governor in his unsuccessful 2009 primary stated: “We have got to move past coal…As governor, I never want another coal plant built.” I knew this Governor would be terrible for the coal industry, but I never thought he would take his War on Coal this far.
Yesterday, Governor McAuliffe’s Coal Tax Credit veto was sustained. The House of Delegates voted to override and the State Senate had three Democrats cross over to join the entire Republican caucus to override, but it wasn’t enough. This number fell two votes – two – short of the 2/3rds majority needed. While I applaud the Senators who did vote to override, I am ashamed that some members of the General Assembly would vote no on such a necessary piece of legislation that has such a major impact on Southwest Virginia.
The Roanoke Times reports:
The House of Delegates narrowly mustered enough votes Wednesday to override Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s veto of the tax credit extension. But it went onto die in the Senate where it fell two votes shy of the override trigger.
The tax credit for coal mine operators will now expire on Dec. 31. The veto doesn’t affect a second tax credit offered for coal-buying power companies.
This is the second time McAuliffe has vetoed efforts to extend the tax credit. He and other detractors criticize the program as ineffective and maintain it’s time to shift resources into more promising economic development initiatives for Southwest Virginia.
In 1988, Virginia had over 11,000 coal mining jobs, according to state data. Today, that figure is just under 3,000.
Supporters acknowledge the industry’s woes, but maintain the tax credit has helped staunch the bleeding for a regional economy still reliant on coal.
The Virginia Coal & Energy Alliance informally estimates that up to 1,000 jobs are bolstered by the tax credit.”
Virginia Coal and Energy Alliance reports the Virginia Coal industry supports 14,000 jobs across the Commonwealth. Those are not jobs that pay $10 an hour either. Those are highly skilled, highly trained professionals that are trying to work in a very dangerous field. The average miner can make more than $80,000 a year, when the median salary in Southwest Virginia is close to $30,000. Their salaries support even more jobs in secondary industries, like retail, home services and others. Killing coal will kill all small businesses and franchisees that depend on the money coal families spend to stay afloat.
When Governor McAuliffe vetoed the bill, he stated that there was no reason to keep the tax credit. He had the audacity to say it was no longer needed due to the loss in coal jobs. As if there is no connection between the two.
Which brings me to three questions.
Does this Governor want Southwest Virginia to starve?
Does he not want Virginia to be energy independent?
Is he that beholden to his donors and the environmentalist wackos of the left that he would let one end of his state rot while Northern Virginia builds glistening ivory towers on a daily basis?
This Governor also had the audacity to say in his veto press release that he vetoed the bill so that Southwest Virginia could “diversify the economy.” Which in Southwest Virginia means menial call center jobs or Walmart. The Wall Street Journal reports:
“The Trump slogan “Make America Great Again,” say supporters here, means returning to the economy of 10 years ago, when coal held its own and the global economy hadn’t suffered through the financial crisis and its aftermath. Coal miners in the county were paid an average $90,334 in 2014, the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics figures available, but such jobs are rapidly disappearing. Half the licensed coal mines closed between 2013 and 2015, reducing coal miners by 50% to 1,028, according to Virginia’s mining authority.
While the county has looked to diversify its economy, the new jobs pay far less. A Sykes Enterprises call center advertised starting hourly wages of $9.50 last year. Wal-Mart pays about $10.”
To this Governor, his idea of economic development is taking people who could make $90,000 a year and put them on track to make $25,000 or end up on welfare. Or move to Kentucky. To further burden our state with recipients of public assistance rather than give them what they want, which is a job.
No wonder the 9th District voted for Donald Trump in droves. They wanted someone to believe in them. They wanted someone who said that they mattered. They wanted to someone who would fight for them. They wanted someone who would let them work in the mines and make an honest living for themselves. The comparison to our Governor is stark.
This Governor has no scruples, nor does he have the ability to understand our way of life. This is why we Southwest Virginians forget Democrats at the voting booth. The Roanoke Times wrote a great editorial that outlined why Southwest Virginia does not support the Democratic Party. It states:
“Written by Alec MacGillis, of the non-profit journalism website ProPublica, the piece uses data to spell out what Republicans have contended all along: Rural voters aren’t distracted by social issues, at all; they simply identify with Republicans on both social and economic issues.
The key word there is voters. In Virginia, Democrats have crusaded for the state to expand Medicaid. They point out it would extend health insurance coverage to 400,000 people who otherwise don’t have it, and most of those are in rural areas – especially Southwest and Southside Virginia. So why don’t voters there rebel against their Republican legislators who oppose a program that presumably would benefit their constituents? (Republicans, of course, contend the fiscal risks outweigh the benefits.)
Here’s why, MacGillis says. Those 400,000 uninsured Virginians probably don’t vote. And their neighbors who do vote emphatically oppose such social programs: “The people in these communities who are voting Republican in larger proportions are those who are a notch or two up the economic ladder — the sheriff’s deputy, the teacher, the highway worker, the motel clerk, the gas station owner and the coal miner. And their growing allegiance to the Republicans is, in part, a reaction against what they perceive, among those below them on the economic ladder, as a growing dependency on the safety net, the most visible manifestation of downward mobility in their declining towns.”
My friends, elections have consequences. If we had a Republican Governor, that coal tax credit would have been extended. If we had a Republican Governor, the mines would be producing more energy. Localities in Southwest Virginia would be able to pay their teachers and miners would be able to support their families. Families in Southwest Virginia wouldn’t need government assistance because they would have jobs that could put food on the table and shoes on their children’s feet.
It is my hope and prayer that every person in Virginia will remember this come November of 2017 and elect a Republican Governor. Whoever that person may be, maybe they will actually care, unlike this Governor.