From the Register-Herald of Beckley:
Greenbrier County Delegate Stephen Baldwin has not been roaming the halls of the state Capitol for too long. With the 60-day legislative session a bit past its midpoint, the freshman Democrat would be forgiven if he is still learning the ropes.
But based on the floor speech he gave Wednesday, we think Delegate Baldwin is way ahead of the curve, far surpassing the wisdom of lawmakers with much more experience.
Baldwin, a Presbyterian pastor, took the microphone to tell his colleagues that he hopes they can all come together to help the state out of the morass without resorting to name-calling and other juvenile actions.
To help make his point, Baldwin told of a family who came to him with their young daughter. An argument ensued and it was the child who led them back on point.
“The little girl looked at her family in the eye and said, ‘It’s not about you.’ Those words have echoed in my mind for the past four weeks of the session,” Baldwin related.
Baldwin is concerned, as many of us are, about the tone he has heard coming from the Legislature.
“I’ve heard delegates disparage other delegates, blame another for all the state’s problems, say that some are stealing others’ ideas in press conferences, mean tweets, and I hear that girl’s words echo in my mind.”
And it’s just not coming from lawmakers. Gov. Jim Justice has called his share of names, as well.
Although it shouldn’t be necessary, Baldwin encouraged his colleagues to come together through differences, saying they should be focused on the state.
“It’s not about you. It’s not about me. It’s not about us. It’s about West Virginia,” Baldwin said.
He is correct.
We have a budget crisis.
We have a jobs crisis.
Everyone agrees on that, but seems to have a different idea about how to solve these issues. But it also seems that no one wants to listen or consider ideas other than their own.
It is our view that too many lawmakers are concerned with watching their own backs rather than having West Virginia’s well-being as their focus.
It also angers us that some think they know better than the experts they are paying to study the financial viability of measures under consideration — eliminating income tax for one. Time and resources have been used to determine the long-term effect of such an action, but little heed is paid to the answers.
Eliminating income tax sounds good. Every lawmaker would love to have that on his/her resume. But it appears that is a short-term quick fix that will disappear as time moves on.
So many are fond of saying, “We don’t need no new taxes!”
Well, yes, we probably do. Millions upon millions of dollars have been cut from the budget over the last several years. There is little left to cut without hurting essential programs.
Our Rainy Day Fund needs to be off-limits. We’ve been told — is anyone listening? — that further draining of the fund will result in further down-grading of the state’s bond rating. That will cost us money.
Someone suggested that the governor, Senate president and speaker of the House meet face-to-face and discuss all of the proposals that have been made. First figure out which ones they can agree on. Then put the rest of the ideas on the table and make a sincere effort to compromise on the ones that might help set West Virginia straight.
Let us spell that out for them — C-O-M-P-R-O-M-I-S-E.
It also might be wise for lawmakers to talk to their constituents — you know, the people who hired them to do this job — and ask them if they are getting the job done to their satisfaction.
But first and foremost, we ask lawmakers and the governor to listen to Delegate Baldwin.
It’s not about you.
It’s not about me.
It’s not about us.
It’s about West Virginia.