Three West Virginia lawmakers on Tuesday announced plans to introduce legislation that would help fund President Donald Trump's border wall using money from the state's surplus, and the idea has received mixed reactions from Mountain State residents.
Delegates Carl "Robbie" Martin, R-Upshur, Patrick Martin, R-Lewis, and Caleb Hanna, R-Webster, are behind the legislation, which, if passed, would divert $10 million from the state's surplus money to help fund construction of the wall. Estimates place full construction of the wall at $5.7 billion.
The proposed bill has received a mix of favorable and sour reactions from residents. Critics argue that the money should go toward fixing problems within West Virginia, while those in favor argue that national security takes precedence and that it will save both the state and nation money in the long run.
In southern West Virginia, which has notoriously been hit hard by the decline of the coal mine industry, many individuals say that surplus money could be used to help combat the widespread problems in the region, from rampant poverty to crumbling infrastructure. According to Caity Coyne with Report 4 America and the Charleston Gazette-Mail, who recently wrote a series of articles reporting on failing water systems in southern West Virginia, $10 million would nearly cover all proposed drinking water projects and extensions in the home counties of the delegates who proposed the legislation.
In Logan County, which has a poverty rate of 29.2 percent according to the U.S. Census Bureau, citizens often complain of poor road conditions, faulty water and sewage systems, aging school buildings and the drug epidemic.
"I am personally against the proposal of sending $10 million to Trump for funding of the border wall as I believe it could be better used here in West Virginia. We finally have a budget surplus, and that money should instead be reinvested in West Virginia to help out its citizens," said Austin Smith, who lives at Stollings. "Fixing the roads, fixing bridges, cleaning up or tearing down dilapidated buildings, fighting against drug addiction, helping fund the school system to buy new books and technology to better prepare West Virginia's children for the future, etc. All of these ideas or projects would be a better use of the money instead. Let the federal government worry about its own funding rather than sacrificing the state's funding for them."
Some are even calling the move a publicity stunt by the delegates, two of whom are new to the legislature. Both Martin and Hanna were elected to their seats in November 2018.
"Well, their ploy worked, they are getting publicity," said Cheryl Belcher. "Too bad they don't spend their time coming up with realistic ideas to help the state of West Virginia where they were elected to serve."
On the opposite side, Verner resident Andrea Browning said that the wall "is a long-term investment for our state and country."
"I think every state should contribute," Browning said. "We are Americans and West Virginians, it's to protect us and the jobs and government funds. What about ObamaCare that they shoved down our throats? I can assure you it did not help the working class, it only costs us more."
Chapmanville resident Connie Bush agrees and said she voted for Trump in 2016 because of his promise to build the wall on the southern U.S./Mexico border.
"You start at the bottom of the problem and work your way up," Bush said. "We're giving millions to people who come into our country. They're taking jobs away from America, and we're sending them to school for free. Build a wall. Don't let them get anything free from our county. Stay in your country and work and put our people to work."
The state currently has a surplus of about $200 million. According to the three delegates, Gov. Jim Justice projects that it will grow to $300 million by the end of the fiscal year.
Dylan Vidovich is a news reporter for HD Media. Contact him by phone at 304-896-5196 or follow him on Twitter @DVidovichLB.