Manchin says country has to get 'financial house in order'

August 03, 2010|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD
  • West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin starts a truck he delivered Tuesday to Berkeley Senior Services' center in Martinsburg, W.Va. The insulated truck will enable drivers to deliver 200 meals to area seniors.
Kevin G. Gilbert, Staff Photographer

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Gov. Joe Manchin in a visit to the Eastern Panhandle Tuesday said if elected to the U.S. Senate this fall, he was prepared to serve from "the back row" if his fiscally conservative, pro-coal positions put him at odds with fellow Democrats.

"This country has got to get its financial house in order. I had to face that in 2005 when I (took office as) governor," said Manchin when asked in an interview if he would support allowing tax cuts that passed during the Bush administration to expire this year.

The Bush tax cuts, among other budget issues, have to be "looked at very hard," Manchin said while visiting Berkeley Senior Services' center in Martinsburg.

Manchin visited the senior center at lunchtime Tuesday to present the keys to a hot/cold food delivery truck to Berkeley Senior Services Executive Director Linda Holtzapple.

By Thursday, Manchin said each of the state's 55 counties would have at least one truck on hand to deliver food to seniors as part of an initiative that began two years ago. Divided between hot and cold storage, the insulated fiberglass/stainless steel box mounted on the four-wheel drive Ford Ranger can hold 200 meals, Manchin said. The vehicle, which cost about $30,000, was funded through the West Virginia Lottery and the Bureau of Senior Services.


Prior to the vehicle presentation, Manchin took part in a grand-opening ceremony at Jefferson County's Bardane Industrial Park for Randox Laboratories Ltd., a company that manufactures clinical diagnostic testing equipment. Based in Northern Ireland in the United Kingdom, the company invested $7 million in the new facility, Manchin said. Company officials previously indicated they expect to employ 150 people there.

Talking finances

"This country, in order for us to be the leader of the world, we have to be strong and that means strong financially," Manchin said. "I'm concerned about the finances of this country, what I know about it."

Manchin said he is going to be meet with Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, co-chairmen of President Obama's debt and deficit commission, to get "a complete breakdown" of the state of the nation's finances.

Considered the front-runner to complete the unexpired term of the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd, Manchin acknowledged the "compressed" timeline for the special election wasn't ideal.

"It's never going to be a perfect situation, I can assure you," Manchin said of the special election.

"I believe that the people should make the decision. I know the (Aug. 28) primary is a compressed time, but there's 14 people (running for Senate) ... so whoever says nobody cares and no one's interested, that's ridiculous. It's exciting."

In remarks to a dining room full of people at the senior center, Manchin thanked members of the local delegation in the state Legislature for making "tough decisions" to help keep the state financially stable in difficult times.

"We live within our means," said Manchin, who spoke for about 14 minutes.

Sounding very much like he was on the campaign trail, Manchin noted that the state since 2005 committed more than $316 million for senior programs and since 2009, it dedicated $67 million more for improvements to senior centers.

"We're one of the few states that have not reduced services, have not laid people off and not raised your taxes," Manchin said.

In a press conference after the vehicle presentation, Manchin said if elected to the Senate, he would continue to be fiscally conservative, pro-business and supportive of the state's coal industry. He said he hopes there are others who want to compromise.

"I'll say 'look at the State of West Virginia and look how well we work together, maybe what we're doing isn't all that bad.' ... both Democrats and Republicans believe this state is moving in the right direction," Manchin said when asked how he expected to work with more liberal members of his party.

"There's not many people in the country that believe their government is moving in the right direction," he said. "Maybe we can help them a little bit."

'Lone wolf'

When asked if he would be a "lone wolf" among Democrats in Washington because of his positions, Manchin said he had been "on the back row before."

"I'm going to be a very, very, very independent person," Manchin said.

"You can't just say 'I don't like (coal) and I want to turn it off and we'll use something else.' You don't have anything to replace it with."

When asked about opposition to mountaintop removal in coal mining, which is fellow Democratic candidate Ken Hechler's platform in the special election, Manchin said the issue needs to be discussed.

"I believe there has been a lot of mistakes made over the years," Manchin said. "I believe we can do a lot better ... if somebody's going to put an application in to alter the surface, then they should show how they're going to leave the land in a more productive value than before they started altering it.

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