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State should gain from Senate's power shift

West Virginia stands to gain a good deal from the recent power shift in the U.S. Senate triggered by Sen. James Jeffords' switch from the Republican Party to independent status, and that's music to our ears.

Primary among the positive changes is the fact that Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., becomes the chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, which controls the Senate's purse strings.

While a lot of people around the nation were outraged by Byrd's promotion of federal projects in West Virginia the last time he held tenure in Appropriations, we saw it as just a case of "sour grapes." Other states have shared in the largesse doled out by the federal government for decades, while the Mountain State was usually passed over for projects.

Now, we may see a bigger share of the federal pie again, and we don't care what gripes other people have about "pork barrel" politics. Anything Sen. Byrd and Sen. Jay Rockefeller do to stimulate economic development in West Virginia is appreciated.

Our state has made strides in recent decades in overcoming poverty, but more help is just what the doctor ordered.

Look at the vast post World War II expansion around the Washington Beltway, and you see why federal dollars can make a big difference in economic development.

Also, items on the Democratic agenda that are important to most West Virginians, such as education, prescription drugs for the elderly and stabilizing Medicare and Social Security, may get a closer look. Although the Senate has already outlined next year's budget and approved a $1.3 trillion tax cut, these issues have a better chance of being debated and acted upon in the near future.

In addition, Sen. Rockefeller is in line to chair the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, and this development is great news for veterans in West Virginia and elsewhere. Rockefeller will serve admirably in this post and ably promote veterans' causes.

Jeffords' decision to bolt the Republican Party had huge political ramifications for the nation, but West Virginia was a big winner when the Vermont senator carried through on his promise last week.

-- Patrick Martin

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