An editorial from the Parkersburg News and Sentinel
PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — As gubernatorial candidates Jim Justice, D, and State Senate President Bill Cole, R-Mercer, recover this morning from their debate last night in Charleston, they may be contemplating how they will tell voters on the campaign trail they plan to improve West Virginia’s economy enough that the credit rating agencies will notice.
At the end of September, Fitch Ratings downgraded West Virginia’s Issuer Default Rating, its outstanding general obligation bonds, its outstanding lease revenue bonds issued by the Economic Development Authority and School Building Authority and its outstanding West Virginia Water Development Authority revenue bonds.
Worse, Fitch says the rating outlook for the Mountain State is “negative.”
Fitch’s reasons are well known to most West Virginia residents, but can be boiled down to“economic and fiscal challenges” expected “to continue over the next several years.” In fact, Fitch’s report on the matter included the agency’s belief that “long-term headwinds are significant.”
There is one long-term headwind some in Charleston are already working hard to fight. Strictly-by-the-numbers Fitch reports what only the brashest Washington politicians have been willing to admit:
“West Virginia is particularly challenged by the focus on more stringent clean air standards as 95 percent of the electric power that is generated in the state comes from coal-fired plants that could require costly retrofits or be subject to lower dispatch to achieve compliance with proposed U.S. requirements.”
A few sentences later, Fitch explains what another federal agenda is doing to the Mountain State, as the development of oil and natural gas resources is impeded by “insufficient pipeline capacity for natural gas transmission.”
West Virginia has plenty of self-imposed challenges, and any new governor’s job will start with addressing the diversification and transition of our economy while letting go of the business-as-usual attitude in Charleston. But the next governor will also have to be a warrior for West Virginia against the people in Washington so determined to put us out of business. Voters will be able to tell who is willing and able to take up that fight.