West Virginia editorial roundup

Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:

August 20

Register-Herald, Bleckley, W. Va., on Patriot Coal:

Members of the United Mine Workers of America who work at Patriot Coal operations in West Virginia and Kentucky ratified a settlement Friday that the union reached with the company that the union believes “makes significant improvements in terms and conditions of employment over a federal bankruptcy judge’s order from last May.”

The final tally was 85 percent in favor to 15 percent opposed in the vote.

We are pleased that both sides apparently were able to come up with a workable solution that will not only keep Patriot going, but also will keep its miners working and their families taken care of.

As many of our readers know firsthand, these coal miners performed their daily tasks and faced extreme risks, while also working under the belief and expectation of having retirement and health insurance benefits.

They and their families did not deserve to have to fight for their benefits. They were promised them.

Many Americans have benefited from our miners’ work, through the energy that’s provided from the coal they’ve mined and the revenue generated.

Coal plays a major role in the success of our region and our state. …

Taking over another company’s assets also means taking over its liabilities — and commitments.

Our hope is that those miners and their families also get what they lived — and many may have died — for.

A fair day’s work for a fair day’s wage — and their retirement benefits which include health care.

They deserve that as well.

Online:

http://www.register-herald.com/

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August 19

The Herald-Dispatch, Huntington, W. Va., on state faces tough decisions on possible budget cuts:

After several tough financial years, many state governments report that 2013 is turning out a little better than expected, but the forecasts for the years ahead are bleaker.

That includes the outlook for West Virginia.

A new report from the National Conference of State Legislatures shows that overall state revenues are up about 5.3 percent for 2013, helped by taxpayers who accelerated payments on their capital gains because of increases in the fiscal cliff legislation. Some states also implemented tax increases, such as higher gas taxes or changes to collect sales tax on online sales.

But the economic recovery continues to be slow, and many states worry that rising Medicaid costs and other expenses will outpace revenue growth next year, the NCSL survey shows.

In West Virginia, Department of Revenue Secretary Bob Kiss has instructed all state agencies to prepare two budgets — one in line with their current spending and another with a 7.5 percent reduction.

The cuts are not definite, but Kiss wants agencies to be prepared to reduce spending if necessary. Some officials feel the 7.5 percent reduction, similar to last year’s cuts, is all but inevitable.

As with other states, rising Medicaid costs — unrelated to the expansion planned under the federal Affordable Care Act — are a big factor. …

A few areas would likely be exempt from cuts, including the school aid funding formula, funding for correctional units, the veteran’s nursing home fund and debt service. Unfortunately, higher education is not on that list.

As readers know, Marshall University struggled to deal with a $5 million cut in state funding this year, and further cuts would likely mean more tuition and fee increases passed along to students and their families. For a state that needs to increase the education of its population and work force, making it more difficult to finish school certainly seems shortsighted.

There are a lot of tough decisions ahead, but we urge state leaders and educators to work hard to keep higher education affordable.

Online:

http://www.herald-dispatch.com

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August 18

Bluefield Daily Telegraph, W.Va., on bait drop program:

The annual bait drop program for southern West Virginia is key when it comes to stemming the spread of the deadly rabies virus. That’s why we welcome the return of this all-important campaign to Mercer and McDowell counties.

As part of the program, fish meal baits containing an oral raccoon rabies vaccine will be distributed in the wooded northern areas of Mercer County, and a larger part of McDowell County. They are distributed both by hand and air. The bait drop program was created to control the spread of raccoon rabies, a major source of rabies in West Virginia.

The areas of Mercer County to be included in this year’s bate drop include Coaldale Mountain, Windmill Gap, Arista Mountain, the Camp Creek area, and the upper part of Route 19 where it borders with Raleigh County, according to Doris Irwin, RN, BSW, with the Mercer County Health Department. …

Baiting with block-type baits distributed in more urban areas by hand is scheduled to begin Aug. 26. Aerial baiting could begin Aug. 28 and conclude in early to mid-September, U.S. Department of Agriculture officials said. Inclement weather could extend the program.

Baits dropped by air look like ketchup packets with an exterior coating of a fine-brown colored fish meal coating. The block-type bait has a hard, brown-colored fish polymer shell that resembles a fig cookie, according to the USDA.

Feeding the baits to a dog or cat will not immunize them against rabies, and children should be told to leave baits alone if they are found.

If a person is exposed to the actual vaccine, which is a red or purple liquid, they are asked to wash with soap and water any areas of the skin that have come into contact with it. Then they should contact their local health department or the telephone number on the bait packet.

Rabies is a deadly disease. …

It is our hope that the continuation of the barrier can slow the spread of the rabies virus in Mercer and McDowell counties.

In the meantime, pet owners should take steps now to ensure their animals are properly vaccinated against rabies. Such preventive measures are key when it comes to stopping the spread of rabies.

Online:

http://bdtonline.com

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