Time again for lawmakers to feed at the trough

    It’s almost that time of year again when lawmakers begin to salivate and carve up taxpayer money for their little projects back home. Of course, some of the projects aren’t little. Some cost a million or more. It’s a shameful practice and we wish it would stop.
    We’re talking about the annual budget digest. It works like this: The Legislature appropriates money for a certain state agency. Before the fiscal year begins, legislative leaders gather to tell that agency how it’s to spend that money. A couple thousand here for this project, a quarter million for that project. It’s pork barrel politics in its purest, ugliest form.
    Lawmakers budgeted $1.5 million next year for the state’s libraries. The budget digest approved next month will outline how much each library should get. God forbid the state’s library commission — which probably knows how best to spend the money — should have a say in the matter.
    Of course, the library commission could ignore the digest, which it has every right to do, but there is an implied threat that the agency would be stiffed in next year’s budget if it doesn’t go along.  Isn’t this how John Gotti operated?
    Some of the requests this year are just downright outrageous. A delegate from Kanawha County wants $10,000 for a midget football team that lost its uniforms in a fire last month. This is an unfortunate occurrence, to be sure, but should taxpayers be obligated to subsidize midget football teams?
    House Speaker Bob Kiss, in trying to defend the practice, says that the budget digest is preferable to having bureaucrats make such decisions. Quite frankly, we’d like to take our chances with the bureaucrats.
    In addition, Kiss says the budget digest only involves a small fraction of the $2.66 billion budget. Still, we’re talking about $20 million. And to paraphrase the late Sen. Dirksen, a million here, a million there ...

Today’s editorial reflects the opinion of the Exponent editorial board, which includes William J. Sedivy, John G. Miller, Julie R. Cryser, James Logue, Kevin Courtney and Cecil Jarvis.



Veto would block
Dems in discouraging
3rd party candidates

    It is our sincere hope that by midnight tonight Governor Underwood will veto Senate Bill 591, which doubles the number of signatures that are needed for minor party and independent presidential candidates to get onto the ballot in West Virginia.
In the last few hours of this year’s regular session, why would the Legislature try to sneak through such a change without a word to the people? Are our elected senators and delegates not aware that this state already has about the most restrictive ballot access laws in the nation?
    Even before SB 591, West Virginia voters lacked choice. To further illustrate this, no state had fewer presidential candidates listed on the November ballot than did the Mountain State — in each of the last three presidential elections.
    As it was pointed out by Richard Winger, editor of Ballot Access News of San Francisco, in a March 29 letter to Governor Underwood, the only presidential candidates on the  ballot in West Virginia in November 1988, November 1992 and November 1996 were the candidates who were on the ballot in all 50 states.
    West Virginia is one of just two states that tell primary  election voters that they cannot sign minor party and independent candidate petitions, although SB 591 has removed the penalty on voters who do both.
    Yet the law still requires petitioners to inform voters that if they do sign a petition, they cannot vote in the primary.
Combine this with the high number of signatures and it becomes quite obvious that West Virginia will have the most restrictive law in the nation if the governor does not veto the law.
    Winger told Underwood in his letter: “Turnout in the U.S. in November 1998 was terrible. But in Minnesota, where there was a viable third party candidate on the ballot for governor (former pro wrestler Jesse “The Body” Ventura), turnout was the best in the nation at 60.1 percent.”
    Thus it becomes quite clear to us that when voters have more choices, they turn up at the polling places to cast their votes.
In West Virginia, turnout in November 1998 was an appalling 25 percent, according to the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate.
    If you still do not believe the existing law in this state is not all that restrictive, here is another fact. In West Virginia, the law stipulates that only an independent voter may cast a Republican ballot in a primary election, but only if he or she first asks for the Republican ballot. An independent cannot vote on a Democrat ballot, even by asking to cast one.
    However, courthouse voter registration personnel say that if an independent asks for and votes on a Republican ballot, but then signs a petition for an independent candidate, the ballot of that person will be negated.
    We can only join Winger in urging Governor Underwood to veto SB 591.
 
Robert F. Stealey
Telegram editorial board chairman



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