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Let's hear what Manchin said

October 14, 2005

What did West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin say to state environmental officials in regard to a proposed coal silo?

We're not telling, say officials of the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), whose attorney said that revealing what was said in this case would open up every case to such questions.

That wouldn't be such a bad thing, but let's say for the moment that it would impede DEP's work. We believe that given the politics already involved, what Manchin said - or didn't say - is relevant and should be revealed.

Why? Because the proposed Raleigh County silo is a project of the Massey Energy Co., whose CEO Don Blankenship helped defeat the governor's proposed pension bond proposal, which voters rejected on June 25.

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Manchin proposed a bond issue because the state is under a court order to put general fund money into the pension system every year.

This year the amount was $350 million. With the bond issue, the state would have been able to hold payments at that level for the next 30 years. Without them, the annual payment needed would rise to $724 million by 2034.

Blankenship financed an ad campaign against the idea, which he called a "big gamble."

Shortly after the bond proposal was defeated, Blankenship announced he would campaign to end the state's 6 percent food tax.

Manchin countered with a proposal to trim the tax from 6 percent to 5 percent, even though no one had identified a replacement for the $25 million in revenues that would be lost.

We can imagine how Blankenship would frustrate an elected official such as Manchin. Blankenship doesn't have to stand for election, doesn't have to balance the state budget and is unlikely to lose his job if his proposals don't fly.

DEP attorney Perry McDaniel told The Associated Press that what Manchin said was irrelevant and that the agency's decision would stand or fall on its own.

Perhaps it would, but then we wouldn't know if the governor's input was proper or an attempt to punish a political foe. It's time to stop stonewalling and be frank with citizens.

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