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Jenkins discusses Trump’s trillion-dollar infrastructure plan

By ANDREA LANNOM

The Register-Herald

BECKLEY, W.Va. — U.S. Representative Evan Jenkins says although he supports president-elect Donald Trump’s proposal of a trillion-dollar investment in infrastructure, he also wants to see a plan to pay for it.

“It’s a big number and it sets a high bar,” Jenkins said. “But that’s why we have a legislative process. Exactly where that number is or ends up will be based on trying to make the infrastructure investment but doing it in a  fiscally responsible way.

The national debt and monthy deficits are major concerns, Jenkins said.

“I am not going to write a blank check that adds to the financial burdens to future generations. It is a desire because the need is so great to roll up our sleeves and come up with a way in a responsible way.”

Both Jenkins and U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito expressed support of proposals of tax reform and public-private partnerships to fund the plan.

Both are on the appropriations committee in the House and Senate, respectively.

“As a member of the appropriation committee, I will have a front-row seat on where this money is appropriated, what types of programs, federal agencies,” Jenkins said. “I’m uniquely positioned to play a key role in making sure funding gets invested and certainly, areas see significant needs and we have those in southern West Virginia.”

Jenkins said he has met with the Republican conference leadership to discuss the upcoming session several times following the election and was in a briefing with Trump’s transition team on Tuesday.

“I am very pleased and supportive certainly in investment and in economic development efforts,” Jenkins said, mentioning he believes Congress needs to approve more projects like the Sullivan project, in particular, in Raleigh County.

Sulivan is a former mine site still owned by Beaver Coal Co. and spans roughly 300 acres just outside of Beckley near I-77 and I-64. Beaver Coal President Woody Duba offered to donate a portion of the property free of charge for economic development.

“The trillion dollar number obviously shows real commitment and there needs to be more detail about what the sources of that funding are but there is a pretty clear vision about the kinds of investments that need to be made.”

Jenkins said he also wants to see other forms of infrastructure such as water, sewer and broadband in West Virginia. Jenkins also said he believes infrastructure would be a driver for jobs.

“The bottom line is airports, broadband, roads, water, sewer, infrastructure, is very broad,” Jenkins said. “It’s very comprehensive and very critical because not only is infrastructure needed from a quality of life perspective but it also drives job opportunities and we are focused on trying to bring jobs back to West Virginia and infrastructure can do just that.”

However, he said there is work to be done with funding.

He said he would not support tolling roads or increasing taxes.

“West Virginians are economically hurting and will be looking for ways to fund infrastructure efforts in ways that don’t add tax burdens to the citizens, whether through tolls or gas taxes,” he said. “We have not turned over yet every stone of opportunity through tax reform to generate funds to not have it put on the shoulders of taxpayers.”

Jenkins says he is open to any criticism for suggested funding measures, saying Congress has to evaluate options with an eye toward concerns.

Ashley Berrang, spokeswoman for U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito, released a prepared statement when asked about how the senator felt about the infrastructure plan.

“Senator Capito has been a strong advocate for infrastructure in West Virginia, including smart investments in our roads, bridges, water and waste water systems, and broadband. She’s encouraged that infrastructure will be a top priority in the Trump Administration, especially given that Elaine Chao, an experienced leader who understands the challenges of transportation in a rural state like West Virginia, has been nominated to run the Department of Transportation,” Berrang said in the emailed statement.

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