By September 13, 2016 Read More →

Miners deserve Congress, nation’s support

An editorial from The Exponent Telegram

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — While Congress deals with looming budget issues amid the potential of a government shutdown, members can’t put off for long the pending bankruptcy of the United Mine Workers pension fund.

In fact, Senatorsw Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W. Va., as well as Congressman David McKinley, R-W. Va., are leading the effort to include federal funding for the pension plan as part of the budget spending bill.

But there remains resistance, including from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky.

 That’s disappointing as we see the debate as clearly landing in favor of the coal miners.

First, these coal miners and their predecessors were basically assured lifetime pensions and health benefits during a 1946 bargaining session with President Truman’s administration.

Back then, coal was king and the fuel that was driving this country’s post-war success.

And that success — and coal’s role — has continued to the present day.

Which brings us to the second reason we believe the government should intercede in the matter: Government regulations are putting a strangle-hold on coal companies and subsequently coal miners.

Efforts to be more environmentally friendly — even when the majority of the rest of the world isn’t — has led to fewer miners employed and paying into the pension fund.

The final reasons Manchin and Capito’s plan of taking money from the Abandoned Mine Land fund to boost the pension fund is that it’s the fiscally prudent approach.

 There is an excess of money in the land fund. And if the miners’ pension fund fails, it will be shifted to Pension Benefit Guarantee Corp., which is also federally funded.

That pension plan would have to assume billions of dollars of liabilities, which means taxpayers would be on the hook eventually anyway.

It’s almost a case of pay me now or pay me later.

With those factors in mind, Manchin, Capito and McKinley have it right: Coal miners deserve to have their pensions and lawmakers need to act now to preserve them.

Let’s hope our leaders in Washington, D.C., will follow the West Virginia delegation’s lead on this one.

To see more from The Exponent Telegram, click here. 

Posted in: Opinion

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