Bond sale foes need to offer some alternatives

June 16, 2005

Pay now or pay a whole lot more later.

That was the message delivered this week by West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin, who came to the Eastern Panhandle to pitch his plan for paying off debts associated with state employees' pension plans.

Citizens can either vote in a special election on June 25, or early at local county courthouses. Either way, voters need to become informed before they go to the polls.

Doing nothing is not an option. The state is under a court-ordered plan to place a percentage of its general fund revenue into the pension accounts every year.


According to The Associated Press, this year the amount was $350 million and with no change it will be $724 million by 2034.

By issuing $5.5 billion in bonds, Manchin said the state will be able to keep the payment at $350 million for the next 30 years.

The governor has faced some opposition from those who feel the stock market is not the safest place to put the state's money. To soothe those critics, this week he announced he has put together a 10-member group to help with the plan's more complicated decisions.

Its members include Bill Bright, a developer; Jim Sturgeon, president of the Charleston, W.Va., Chamber of Commerce and Jim Lees, a Charleston attorney who opposed Manchin in the last Democratic primary and economists from Marshall and West Virginia universities.

The strongest opposition to the plan has come from Don Blankenship, chairman of the Massey Energy Company.

An ad campaign which Blankenship funded began Monday and called the proposal a "big gamble."

The Herald-Mail has for many years taken the position that when elected officials or other citizens say "no" to a proposal, they have a responsibility to offer something in its place.

Manchin has offered a proposal which would stabilize pension payments for the next 30 years. Blankenship has less than a week to offer an alternative. We hope that if and when it comes, it's a well-thought-out plan, as opposed to a blast of negative rhetoric.

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