Patriot, union agreement good for miners

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.

— From the Aug. 20

The Register-Herald in Beckley



W.Va. 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 veterans 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.

— From the Aug. 19

Herald-Dispatch in Huntington


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