POLYNERVOUSTICKS - Say It Ain't So

(10/30/2001)

By Bob Weaver

GOVERNMENT FAILS TO FOLLOW ITS RULES? - Much like the Appalachian Regional Commission was created in the 60's to help the poor, underdeveloped areas of Appalachia, and then spent most of their money on more highly developed urban areas, the feds have also ignored the 1972 Rural Development Act.

The Rural Development Act would have required federal agencies to study the costs and benefits of buying or renting space in rural settings, instead of pricey locations in urban areas. The law was to help boost the economy of poorer, high unemployment areas of the country and save money for the government.

A General Accounting Office said that eight of 13 cabinet-level agencies didn't have the law as a policy, even to consider the option. "These federal agencies haven't moved a muscle to comply with the law," said Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota.

The government's excuse is based upon the laws misunderstanding of what is "rural." The GAO defined a rural area as one with population less than 25,000. Certainly the Appalachian Regional Commission trashed using such a definition years ago.

In Appalachia, the ARC'S notion of rural is Pittsburgh, and dozens of other built-up cities with lots of infrastructure and lots of jobs. The 50 poorest counties (of 406 in the ARC) got the tiniest amounts of funds in the past 35 years, they also have the smallest number of voters.

If government is genuinely interested in "foreign aid" to the highest unemployment, most impoverished areas, it should immediately do away with the ARC and start over again.

Poor areas in Appalachia have great difficulty in coming up with ARC matching funds for shell buildings, water and sewage systems or highways.

Say it ain't so, Feds and ARC bureaucrats!

DID $900 MILLION WORTH OF TAX BREAKS BENEFIT WEST VIRGINIA? - Well, no. At least according to a new report by the State Department of Tax and Revenue. Between 1988 and 1997, state government gave the breaks through three major tax credit programs, not including "incentives" given since 1997. The incentives were supposed to create jobs and help the economy.

The tax breaks through these programs did not create an "accountable" number of jobs, according to the new study. Critics say it amounts to corporate welfare. In the middle of tax breaks, former Workman's Compensation Commissioner William Viewing dismissed $400 million in comp fees charged mostly to coal companies, telling the public it was the right thing to do. One of the biggest beneficiaries of the cash was Island Creek Coal Company, the commissioners former employer. In a period between 1985-88, $35 million in super tax credits were received by coal companies, while they laid off about 1,300 workers.

The Economic Development Office in Charleston has operated under a cloak of secrecy for several years, unwilling to tell taxpayers what they are getting for their buck. John Snider, the former director, could not or would not answer the burning questions as he resigned. A new development director has been hired, and maybe a few things might change. Gov. Wise has ordered a top to bottom review of the office, which has used private funds to reward the agencies bureaucrats for "a job well done."

The West Virginia Legislature, driven by the Underwood administration, has been most helpful in giving breaks, like the Managed Timberland Bill which cut taxes over 60% to the timber industry (which was already managing its' own timber). The bill was supposed to help the little guy, but 90% of the timber is owned by large corporations.

Say it ain't so, Charleston?


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