By ANDREA LANNOM
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — On a 58-41 vote Tuesday, the West Virginia House of delegates passed a bill that would eliminate the Courtesy Patrol program.
If passed by the Senate and signed by Gov. Justice, HB 2007, which would end the program effective July 1. Remaining balances in the program would be transferred to the State Road Fund by that date.
The bill also prohibits the West Virginia Parkways Authority from operating the Courtesy Patrol program.
Delegate Marty Gearheart, R-Mercer, is the lead sponsor of the bill. Other sponsors are delegates Roy Cooper, R-Summers; Pat McGeehan, R-Hancock; Danny Hamrick, R-Harrison; Steve Westfall, R-Jackson; and Cindy Frich, R-Monongalia.
Delegate Ed Evans, D-McDowell, called the bill “job killing legislation,” saying in his county alone where Courtesy Patrol is dispatched, 12 jobs would be lost.
“If you pass this bill, you’re going to put those people on notice, but you’re not going to affect the two top dogs,” he said. ‘They are employed by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps). They make a lot of money, hundreds of thousands of dollars. You’re not going to fire them.”
As reported by other media, the CCC’s latest IRS 990 filing states that CCC CEO Robert Martin had a salary of $280,313, while the next highest paid executive, CFO Jennifer Douglas, had a salary of $121,250.
The CCC, according to the 990, had total revenue of $4.5 million, $3.75 million of which was funding for the Courtesy Patrol.
Evans said Courtesy Patrol is the eyes and ears of the roadway and the primary aid for recovering abducted children during an Amber Alert. He cited statistics from the program, reporting that during its existence, the patrol assisted 309,771 vehicles, conducted more than 14,000 routine procedural checks and conducted first aid 135 times.
“If you say we can’t afford it, then what can we afford? We cannot fill a budget hole by just simply cutting the small amount that Courtesy Patrol would save,” Evans said, later adding, “At that rate, we would have to cut 125 more programs. Makes no sense to me.”
Braxton County Democrat Brent Boggs argued that the program provides a valuable service to residents. He said the bill doesn’t just get rid of the funding, but also eliminates the mechanism to operate the program.
Hamrick, one of the sponsors of the legislation, said the bill was about making hard decisions. He said other providers would be able to take care of these services.
“Something I heard about is that this is a small amount of money,” Hamrick said. “I don’t think to any taxpayer that $5 million that would go to the State Road Fund — I don’t think to any taxpayer in West Virginia that’s a small amount of money. This is a year we need to make hard decisions and choices like this.”
Before the bill went up for vote, Gearheart said the program is unnecessary.
“The real question is what is in fact the role of government? Is our role to provide roadside assistance to travelers? I would indicate that in today’s world, this is an unnecessary service for us to provide. It’s easy to say most of us carry around one of these,” Gearheart said holding up his cell phone. “They’re able to call for roadside assistance.”
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